England v South Africa, Twickenham, November 24
Habana's words of wisdom for rival Ashton
November 23, 2012
Sprinboks winger Bryan Habana is currently sidelined with a knee injury and will miss his side's showdown with England on Saturday © Getty Images
Springboks speedster Bryan Habana has offered England winger Chris Ashton some advice on how to end his 10-game run without a try - but hopes he doesn't rediscover his scoring touch on Saturday.
Habana, who will be watching from the stands this weekend having been ruled out of South Africa's end of year tour with a knee injury, endured his own barren spell last year that stretched to 11 Tests before he finally returned to scoring ways at the Rugby World Cup. The 29-year-old kicked on again this year with seven tries for the Boks - with one shortlisted for the Try of the Year award - and also tasted Currie Cup glory with Western Province before injury cruelly struck him down.
The ever-positive Habana refuses to be too downcast about his current plight with his faith and family helping to provide him with perspective ahead of his expected return next year. And it is an approach that he feels Ashton could learn from as he bids to find the kind of free-scoring form that brought him nine tries in his first nine international appearances.
"I think a lot of wingers start off by scoring a lot of tries," Habana told ESPNscrum. "I started out scoring 15 tries in 15 Tests and then everyone expects you to carry on like that, but unfortunately people know who you are and defenders start worrying about you more."
Habana took time to re-focus and re-connected with Dr Sherylle Calder, the world renowned visual awareness coach and the only person to have won back-to-back World Cup winners' medals through her work with England in 2003 and then with South Africa four years later. Calder's input helped propel Habana to superstar status with his outstanding contribution to the Boks' World Cup success rewarded with the International Rugby Board Player of the Year honour the same year.
"Sometimes you have to try and do other things. I got to a stage where the harder I tried the worse it became," explained Habana. "This year I have got back working with Dr Sherylle Calder and got back to the basics - what works for me.
"It was a case of trying but not trying too hard and letting stuff happen. I couldn't remember the last time I scored an intercept try before this year and now I'm suddenly scoring intercept tries again. Every situation is unique. I know Shane Williams went through a similar thing after he became the IRB Player of the Year in 2008. Everyone comes and goes. Jonah Lomu never scored a try against the Springboks for instance, yet people said he was the ultimate athlete."
Bryan Habana has begun working with visual awareness coach Dr Sherylle Calder once again © Getty Images
Ashton enters his side's latest showdown with South Africa having not scored for England for over a year with his last try coming against Scotland in their World Cup quarter-final clash last year. But instead of getting hung up on his try-drought, Habana has urged his rival to use it to his advantage and draw on lessons learned in the business world.
"It is the same for every player, you need to learn as much as you can in those tough times," he said. "It is a professional career and if you are in business and times are tough, as they are the world over at the moment, you have got to try something different, try and be better, cut costs and streamline stuff.
"You have to be careful too because sometimes you will build things up so much that you stop enjoying it. You will find that the harder you work the more intense it becomes and the worse the downward spiral gets."
You cannot imagine Habana in such rut given his positive outlook and it is perhaps that approach that has seen him dominate the Test stage since his international bow against England in 2004 that he celebrated with a try - score he rates as the most special of his the record 47 he has to his name. "I have been blessed with an amazing talent by God to do something I love each and every day of my life," he enthused. "I get to live out my dream and be an inspiration to kids like the team of 1995 were an inspiration to me."
Habana's love for life and the game is infectious and even given the proximity of what is expected to be a brutal clash at Twickenham, he only has words of encouragement for Ashton. "I would love to be able to tell Chris that it is just a phase and you are going to get over it," he said. "I think he knows that and is talented enough to get over it but I am hoping he doesn't start on Saturday. I would be more than happy for it to start next week against the All Blacks!"
Bryan Habana is an ambassador for world leading rugby brand Canterbury, official kit supplier to England Rugby and South Africa Rugby. Visit www.canterbury.com for more information
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.