Rugby
Christopher Jones, Special to ESPN 78d

Bryan Habana: World Cup legacy can lead to Olympic gold

Bryan Habana believes South Africa's stunning Rugby World Cup triumph in Japan has created heroes who can inspire an entire generation and help the Blitzboks bid for Olympic rugby sevens gold in Tokyo next year.

Habana expects to see tangible evidence of the feel-good-factor generated by the Springboks victory over England in the World Cup final when the Cape Town leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series kicks off tomorrow with the Blitzboks aiming to build on their triumph in Dubai last weekend.

The Springboks extended victory bus tour took the World Cup to key areas of South Africa, generating extraordinary scenes of delight at a time when the country is battling significant problems, including recent floods and power cuts.

While sport cannot solve South Africa's problems, Habana is adamant the stories of commitment and courage of men like Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and wing Makazole Mapimpi can been transformative.

Maintaining the momentum created by the World Cup win now falls to the Blitzboks and an Olympic Games gold medal in 2020 would grab the headlines just a year before the arrival of the British and Irish Lions for a three-Test tour in 2021.

Habana, a World Cup winner in 2007, told ESPN: "Legacies are being created and heroes being made and long may that continue. Siya's story is so inspirational on so many different levels and I got the opportunity to embrace him after the final and tell him how proud I was of him. Mapimpi has a similarly inspirational story. He used to walk 10km a day to and from school just to get an education.

"What has become more tangible about the Springboks is that players of colour are there purely on merit without anyone thinking there is any other reason. That has been brilliant and it has inspired a new generation of South Africans -- boys and girls -- and given people hope and shown them that in a country that has so many problems what can be achieved if you put your differences aside.

"The World Cup win in Japan is making Cape Town a fantastic leg of the Sevens. The bus tour around the country with the World Cup was absolutely exceptional by the Springboks and almost bigger than 1995 and 2007. The Sevens in Cape Town is the first tangible thing from a rugby perspective since the win in Japan. Cape Town is always one of the most enjoyable stops on the Sevens Series circuit and with the Olympics taking place next year it really adds spice to the tournament.

"There is a very good chance that guys from the victorious Springboks squad like Cheslin Kolbe and Kwagga Smith could potentially be involved with the Sevens at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I expect the hype around the World Cup win to continue in Cape Town during the tournament."

Habana, while at Toulon, was hoping to make the Blitzboks squad for the 2016 Olympic Games where Fiji won the gold medal. Habana missed out, but Kolbe, thanks to his sevens experience, would be able to swiftly make the transition back into the shortened game from his 15's career with Toulouse to try for gold in Tokyo.

"It was a massive draw card for me to have the chance to be involved in an Olympic Games and Cheslin was part of the bronze winning squad," Habana added. "Cheslin was absolutely brilliant at sevens and was probably even better than what we saw from him at the World Cup.

"They say that dynamite comes in small packages and he has lit up rugby playing for the Blitzboks, Toulouse and the Springboks. He has been nothing short of exceptional." 

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