DURBAN, June 5 (Reuters) - South Africa will not use their lack of preparation time as an excuse before their three-test home series against England, wing Bryan Habana said on Tuesday.
Habana, with 74 test caps to his name, is the most experienced player in the 32-man Springbok squad. His knowledge will be vital for a South Africa team who have had only five days to prepare for the first test against England in Durban on Saturday.
“The one thing we have decided as a group is that there are going to be no excuses whether we have enough time or not,” Habana told reporters.
“(Coach) Heyneke Meyer’s main message to us for the next four years is that we want to become the best team in the world and we can’t afford to see anything as an excuse.”
Meyer has named nine uncapped players in his first South Africa squad which will be missing the retired John Smit and Victor Matfield and the injured Schalk Burger and Juan Smith.
“We are all professional enough to understand our roles and responsibilities and we need to make sure that we start this new era with a win,” Habana said.
South Africa have an admirable recent record against England, having won the last seven tests between the two countries while England have not beaten the Springboks in South Africa since 2000.
But Habana said that history would play no part in the first test against a revitalised England team who finished second in this year’s Six Nations under new coach Stuart Lancaster.
“It’s a fantastic record for us to have but we are not going to worry about what has happened in the past. We need to set new goals and new standards,” he said.
”This England team under Stuart Lancaster has improved over the last 12 months and they have been good for northern hemisphere rugby. Lancaster has done unbelievably well with a talented group of youngsters and one or two old heads in the team.
“It is probably one of the strongest English sides that has come to South Africa over the last 12 years. This English team is not going to go out there and hand us a win on Saturday. We know it’s going to be tough and we are up for that challenge.” (Editing by John Mehaffey)