It says a lot about the type of player he is
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has praised the work ethic and dedication of record-breaking Springbok wing Bryan Habana.
The Stormers squad assembled at Newland on Monday following a near month-long break ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs, with the players getting stuck into training in typically unpleasant Cape Town winter weather.
Although the Cape franchise’s Springboks were given the day off following the brutal clash with Samoa at the weekend, Habana - who scored twice at Loftus Versfeld to reach the 50-try milestone for his country - was leading the way and inspiring his teammates in Monday’s training session.
Coetzee said it speaks volumes of the character and commitment of the 30-year-old, who will link up with French giants Toulon after the Super Rugby season.
“You see a player like Bryan Habana, who was given off today, but he was out there training - it just shows you, a guy with [a record] 50 Test tries, after the Super Rugby season he is heading off to Toulon - it is raining in Cape Town and it is cold in Cape Town, but he is out there training,” said Coetzee.
“It says a lot about the type of player he is and that is the type of attitude a lot of young players can learn from and aspire to become.”
Coetzee said Habana’s attitude personified that of the squad, who Coetzee said remained fully focused and committed despite having just a slight mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs.
“The attitude [of the players] and spirit [in the camp] is really good,” said the Stormers mentor.
“We’re definitely not happy with our position on the log [10th], therefore, the next three games are really important to make sure we improve that.
“It’s not a case of the competition is over for us; we’re a proud Stormers team and who knows, with some showers of blessings something might happen.
“We have a proud record at home and we want to keep that intact. The players are looking forward to the next three derbies and they are keen to play.”
Among those spoiling to return to the playing field are exciting backs Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh, who were part of the Springbok squad but didn’t get any game time in the four-nation tournament.
“I’m sure it was good for them to get the call-up to the squad and I’m sure they are eager to play rugby again as they haven’t played in three weeks,” Coetzee said of the dynamic duo.
“Juan has recovered fully from his finger injury, he’s looking sharp at training and what good opportunity for them to test themselves against a quality side like the Cheetahs.”
With the fifth-placed Cheetahs aiming to reach the play-offs for the first time ever and set to feature newly blooded Springboks Willie le Roux, Piet van Zyl and Trevor Nyakane along with captain Adriaan Strauss, Coetzee said he’s bracing his charges for a massive challenge.
“The Cheetahs have everything to play for. They’re a good team, they’ve done well in the tournament and they have play-off possibilities,” he said.
“They’ve developed a few Springboks in their squad so they’re a quality side and we know we’re in for a tough game.”
Coetzee admitted that players could be rusty due to the break in the Super Rugby season but felt they had made the most of the time to remain as sharp as possible
“I suppose there might be some rustiness for all teams but we weren’t on holiday; we had two tough weeks of training with about 15 players who will be in contention for this weekend, so hopefully we can take what we trained into the match on Saturday.”
Coetzee added that it was unfortunate that Cheslin Kolbe was unavailable for selection, with the young fullback joining the BlitzBok squad in Moscow ahead of the start of the Sevens World Cup this weekend after starring for the Baby Boks at the IRB Junior World Championship in France.
“I’m very excited about his performances at that level,” said Coetzee.
“He will probably have an opportunity to show us what he can do in the Currie Cup when he comes back…he’s definitely in the plans.”