The Calder role in Habana's success

Fri, 02 Nov 2012 09:12
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Bryan Habana became one of the most celebrated players in SA, but he was quick to deflect praise.

Bryan Gary Habana became one of the most celebrated players in South Africa this week, but he was quick to pass the credit on to his 'coaches'.

Top of that list - which saw the 29-year-old, 83-Test veteran to bounce back from a horrid slump in form in 2011 - was world renowned visual skills and performance specialist Sherylle Calder.

After being named Player of the Year for a third time - only Naas Botha's four awards are better - the speed merchant spoke of the role those around him played in getting him back to the form that saw him win similar accolades in 2005 and 2007.

"If there was one thing I can single out, it was getting back to work with Sherylle Calder," Habana said.

"The biggest criticism I had of myself last year were the little individual errors I was making - stuff like handling errors, which were never part of my game.

"Working with doctor Sherylle [Calder] that came out of my game more. I was able to see space and find myself in different positions."

Habana was also full of praise for his teammates and coaches who kept backing him through those dark days.

"The teammates and the coaches I had around me, never stopped believing in me," the Bok flyer said, adding: "Once or twice I doubted myself, but to have that support structure around me was unbelievable.

"To them I owe a lot of gratitude and a lot of credit."

Quizzed about Calder - who has worked with numerous high profile sportsmen and team, like golfer Ernie Else, the Protea cricket team, Stormers and Bulls Super Rugby squads, as well as the World Cup-winning England and South African rugby teams - he said it would be silly if South African rugby don't utilised her more often.

"I had a session with her last week Thursday in Stellenbosch, before going down to Durban [for the Currie Cup Final]," Habana said, adding: "Her energy and zest for life is just amazing.

I have learnt a lot from her, in terms of continually striving to want to be the best.

"In her discreet manner she has been able to achieve greatness - the only person win back-to-back World Cups [2003 with England and 2007 with the Boks].

"That has got to say something about her ability.

"I got to give her a lot of credit, she doesn't always get the recognition she deserves in terms of sport in South Africa - that in a way is sad for me.

"However, the type of person she is, she leaves that behind and makes sure she helps the people she can.

"Based on her track record, it would be silly not to utilise her.

"We as rugby players want to become big, strong, quick and fast on the field.

"The one area where we take all our information through is our eyes and that we don't work on. Some players benefit from it, some don't.

"However, if we train our bodies each and every day of our lives, and our eyes take in all the information, then why aren't we training our eyes as much as well?."

Habana described his awards - he also won the Try of the Year category - as "very special".

"As a player you set yourself certain goals. The one thing I have set for myself over the last eight years is that I want to be seen as the best year in and year out. I haven't always got it right.

"However, this year, especially to the coaches and the players around me that never stop believing in me and never stopped backing me, to them this award is so much more special.

"Without them, whatever I achieved this year would not have been possible."

He dismissed the notion that the award silenced those who criticised him during his slump in form last year.

"I have always been my own biggest critic," the Bok wing said, adding: "Guys like Allister [Coetzee, WP and Stormers coach] and Robbie [Fleck, WP and Stormers backline coach] I got to respect in terms of their rugby know-how and they have allowed me to stay humble in the fact that they continued to believe in me.

"They were also my biggest critics and that is something I really appreciated, their honesty and support through everything was really special.

"Then, also, getting a guy like coach Heyneke [Meyer] back [as Bok coach], a guy who I worked with and who I respect a lot as well and getting his point of view.

"For me it wasn't about answering critics, for me it was about performing to the standards I knew I had in me and the standards I knew I could always achieve. It was not about answering critics, it was fulfilling what I knew I could do and that was contributing to the success of every team I was a part of."

By Jan de Koning