Bryan Habana backs Rieko Ioane to break Rugby World Cup try scoring record

All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane will be the All Blacks' No 1 strike weapon next year.
GETTY IMAGESAll Blacks wing Rieko Ioane will be the All Blacks’ No 1 strike weapon next year.

The South African legend, who called time on his illustrious career in April, believes the 21-year-old New Zealand wing has what it takes to better his achievement in Japan at the end of next year, when the All Blacks defend their crown.

Habana, 35, managed to touch down eight times at the 2007 tournament to match Jonah Lomu’s record, set in 1999.

Three years ago, Julian Savea, another All Blacks wing, equalled that mark. However, he has been edged out of the side, largely thanks to the rise of Ioane, who initially shot to fame on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit in 2015.

READ MORE:
* Ioane weighs in on St Kents drama
Ireland reigns supreme in rugby world
Ranking the All Blacks coach candidates
Black Ferns pushing ABs for top NZ award

Having won his first All Blacks cap in November 2016, against Italy in Rome, Ioane has gone on to be capped 24 times – and has already chalked up an incredible 22 tries.

“To be brutally honest, I think it is written on the wall for Rieko to break the Rugby World Cup record of the most tries in one competition,” said Habana, speaking exclusively to Stuff.

“He has a phenomenal strike rate, and reminds me of Julian Savea in 2015.

The great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
PHOTSPORTThe great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

“Rieko has every opportunity to beat the record, and records are there to be broken.”

Since retiring, Habana has impressed as a pundit and is working with HSBC to help grow the game of sevens globally.

Like Habana, Ioane, who turns 22 in March, rose to prominence on the sevens circuit.

BreakfastAfter Saint Kentigern’s recruiting tactics came under the spotlight, the Breakfast team debate who it benefits.

The Blues wing made his sevens debut in Wellington in February 2015.

The 17-year-old announced himself to the rugby world by scoring six tries during the tournament, including a brace in the final in which New Zealand defeated England 27-21.

Following the victory, opposition captain Tom Mitchell said of the teenager: “I didn’t realise he was only 17. He certainly didn’t look that age close up. He is the strongest 17-year old I have ever come across. He is no doubt a talent and one to watch for the future.”

Julian Savea was virtually unstoppable at the last World Cup, demolishing France in the quarterfinals.
STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGESJulian Savea was virtually unstoppable at the last World Cup, demolishing France in the quarterfinals.

They proved prescient words, and at the moment few would argue with Habana’s prediction that Ioane will go on to be a record breaker in Japan.

Habana was speaking ahead of the Cape Town Sevens, which takes place this weekend.

It is the second stop of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and New Zealand enter the tournament as both defending champions and winners of last weekend’s opening leg, in Dubai.

Springboks legend Bryan Habana after the bronze final match at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGESSpringboks legend Bryan Habana after the bronze final match at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Amazingly, when New Zealand defeated England 16-15 in November at Twickenham, Ioane was one of five in the tourists’ starting backline to have played international sevens, illustrating how the abridged version of rugby is a rich talent pipeline for the All Blacks.

“Sevens is a great stepping stone for players to go on and star in the 15-a-side game, and in New Zealand there is a fantastic structure and pathway to make the most of that talent,” added Habana, whose country’s sevens team will be running out wearing unique, Nelson Mandela-influenced shirts this weekend.

The jerseys, created as part of the Mandela 100 initiative to mark what would have been the former South African president’s 100th birthday, have a striking pattern inspired by the bright and colourful ‘Madiba’ shirts worn by Mandela.

New Zealand will tackle the Cape Town hosts in a tough Pool A, which also includes Samoa and Zimbabwe.

Stuff