Rugby World Cup
Bryan Habana 'didn't really play my greatest game ever' for Springboks
Tristan Barclay
October 31, 2015
South Africa see off Pumas

Bryan Habana believes he was perhaps fated not to break Jonah Lomu's World Cup try-scoring record during the third-place play-off on Friday.

The South Africa wing went into the bronze match against Argentina level with Lomu on 15 career tries in rugby's quadrennial showpiece, needing just one more score to move ahead of the great All Black. That should have been an easy task as the Springboks marched to a regulation victory over an understrength Pumas side at London's Olympic Stadium, but the ball would just not fall for Habana and he saw a series of half-chances go begging.

"It definitely wasn't for lack of trying," Habana said of his attempts to break the record. "The opportunities did come, but sometimes things don't happen for a reason. I said it three weeks ago; I've got a lot of respect for Jonah and maybe rightly so that record stays around for a bit longer.

"I've known Jonah since 2007 and his passion, not only for life, but for the game is unbelievable. As bad as it is for me not to have scored one tonight, it just goes into the echelons of how great Jonah is. He's a guy who changed the game in a way no other player had ever done before."

South Africa's Bryan Habana can't get to the ball in goal © Getty Images
Argentina 13-24 South Africa (Australia only)

The atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium was occasionally flat as South Africa shunted Argentina out of the contest on Friday, but the rugby world's eyes were perhaps already on Saturday's main event - the final between New Zealand and Australia - in which Habana and Lomu's joint record could yet be broken by Wallabies wing, and Habana's Toulon team-mate, Drew Mitchell. The Australian is sitting on 14 career tries going into the showdown at Twickenham, but the 32-year-old Habana was philosophical about the threat to his mark.

"Someone like Drew Mitchell has got an opportunity to score two tomorrow and break the record, but I definitely tried and it wasn't meant to be," he said. "I definitely won't be there in 2019, so I'm going to take some time off now and decide where I am as a player. I'm not too sure it's the end yet. I'll maybe write down one or two more goals for the next two years. I would love to give Toulon back a little bit more after everything they've given me, but the honour of wearing the Springbok jersey is something I'll never take for granted."

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer took the somewhat surprising decision to replace Habana on 66 minutes and deny him further opportunities to get the 16th try, but the wing admitted he deserved to be withdrawn after fluffing his lines on several occassions.

"I was pretty disappointed with the way I played, so I thought it was a justified replacement," he said. "I was proud of the way the team responded. Unfortunately I didn't really play my greatest game ever in a Springbok jersey. It might be one I want to forget, but I'm unbelievably proud of the character and commitment this side has shown over the last six weeks."

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