(Reuters) – Bryan Habana believes there are few comparisons that can be made between South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winners of 2007 and the Class of 2015, but insists this year’s squad can emulate that triumph.
The Springbok winger, who finished as top try-scorer when South Africa lifted the trophy in France eight years ago, will again be a key figure as they tackle Wales in the quarter-finals at Twickenham on Saturday.
The squad was more settled in 2007 and had a smoother run-up to the tournament, with players who had been building towards the event for the previous four years.
“It is difficult to compare the two, there are two very different components to each,” Habana told reporters on Tuesday.
“In 2007 we really had a fantastic group of core leadership that had come a long way over the four-year period under (coach) Jake White.
“When Jake took over he had a set plan about who his 22 were going to be leading into that World Cup, getting guys like Os du Randt, Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Percy Montgomery from overseas to be a part,” he added.
“If we look at this year then there have been a lot of youngsters that have put up their hand and that have come through really well.”
South Africa lost four of their five tests going into this year’s competition and suffered a shock 34-32 defeat by Japan in their opening game in England.
“In 2007 we had a smooth run into the World Cup, where this year it was more stop-start with a couple of injuries and a couple of losses before the tournament,” Habana said.
“But in my opinion this team definitely has the same potential to go on and achieve something great. After that first weekend shock loss against Japan we had to stand up and be counted.”
With eight players remaining in the squad from 2007, there is experience of winning the Webb Ellis trophy, but Habana feels that counts for little.
“2007 was great and it is always nice to reminisce about the past, but the past isn’t going to get us anywhere in this competition,” he said.
“As a group we have learnt quite a few lessons over the last three weeks and we can use those lessons to the best of our ability going into this knockout phase where you have eight of the best teams in the world competing for that little cup called Bill.”