Habana hails departing Boks boss White ahead of Cardiff swansong

WORLD Cup superstar Bryan Habana has led the tributes to departing Springboks coach Jake White, declaring: “He has taken us on an unbelievable journey.”

And South Africa’s World Cup-winning skipper John Smit hopes Saturday’s Test match against Wales in Cardiff can be a “celebration” of White’s achievements.

White, who masterminded the Springboks’ world title success this autumn, takes charge of South Africa for the final time in a full international game this weekend.

He has been linked to coaching roles with Wales and England, but White won’t be rushed into decisions about his rugby future and will probably take a six-month break after South Africa face the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday week.

Springboks winger Habana is among nine survivors from the World Cup final victory over England who will be in Millennium Stadium action on Saturday.

Habana said: “Jake brought us back from the depths of despair in 2003 and put a few traditions back into place. He has left the Springbok team in a better state than he received it.’’

He added: “One of the most important things Jake brought back was the ethics. In the Springboks code of conduct, it says you always put the Springbok team above your own ambition, and that was something every player involved over the last four years has stuck to and believed in. It is something so special, and something I would not like to see lost in the future.”

And Smit, who has been released by his new club Clermont Auvergne to lead the Springboks against Wales, added: “It has been an incredibly enjoyable four years.

“From the start, we really felt he was bringing structure and an ability for us to turn things around and take the Springboks to where they belong.

“It is a sad moment now, having come to the end of the road.

“This game, hopefully, will be a celebration of what Jake has given to South Africa for the last four years.”

Smit leads a team that contains just one new cap — Natal Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski.

Smit and Habana, meanwhile, will be joined by fellow World Cup final starters JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, CJ Van Der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith.

Notable absentees though, include full-back Percy Montgomery, half-backs Butch James and Fourie Du Preez, lock Victor Matfield and number eight Danie Rossouw.

White said: “It looked like it might be a bit of an inexperienced team, but when you put it together, there is enough there for us to feel confident we can get a result.

“I know this is the swansong for me, but I am not unhappy about it. I am very content about where we are as a group,” he added.

South Africa v Wales: R Pienaar; JP Pietersen, J Fourie, F Steyn, B Habana; A Pretorius, R Januarie; CJ Van Der Linde, J Smit (capt), J Du Plessis, B Botha, J Muller, S Burger, J Smith, R Kankowski.

Replacements: B Du Plessis, H Van Der Merwe, A Van Den Berg, H Lobberts, W Olivier, A Ndungane, C Jantjes.

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