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The guy who gave his everything

Tue, 16 Jul 2013 11:25
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No chance of slipping into anonymity
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Bryan Habana cemented his place among the game's elite at the 2007 World Cup and has since added a few more luminous laurels.

But he is far from done.

On Saturday Habana boards a plane for France, where he has signed a three-year deal to play for the European Cup champions Toulon.

There he will meet up with fellow South Africans John Philip Botha, Danie Rossouw, Joe van Niekerk and Michael Claassens.

The club's roster also includes other high-profile foreign recruits like Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy), Carl Hayman (New Zealand), Andrew Sheridan (England), Ali Williams (New Zealand), Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe  (Argentina), Chris Masoe (New Zealand), Jonny Wilkinson (England), Matt Giteau (Australia), Drew Mitchell (Australia), David Smith (New Zealand) and Rudi Wulf (New Zealand).

Habana joins Castrogiovanni, Claassens, Mitchell and Williams among the new recruits for the 2013/14 season.

In such a long list of quality names one would think that the South African star would be able to slip into anonymity or at least escape some of the spotlight.

No chance of that happening if your name is Bryan Gary Habana.

"I've seen photos of the shop, with my picture emblazoned all over the front, so I won't be able to slip into anonymity," Habana said, when asked if he was hoping for a period where he won't be accosted around every corner by some eager fan.

"I am looking forward to it," he said of his three-year stint abroad, adding: "Going from where I played with legends of the game in South Africa to go to a place where people also want to breed success.

"With the likes of Matt Giteau, Jonny Wilkinson, Bakkies [John Philip Botha] and Danie [Rossouw].

"Joe van Niekerk has also achieved some great things over in France [at Toulon].

"There is a team of highly successful people who want to achieve stuff over there."
Habana said he will take it one step at a time, but there won't be much time for rest - despite having just completed another five-month Super Rugby season and a few June Tests thrown in for good measure.

"I think I have a warm-up game on August 2 already, against Racing Metro," the record-breaking Bok flyer said.

"I am going fully into the coming season, but it is an exciting time - one that, when I get over there, I'll start concentrating on."

The 30-year-old Bok, who scored a record 50th try in his 86th Test against Samoa in Pretoria last month, has many honours on his CV.

There are two Currie Cup tiles (with the Blue Bulls in 2009 and Western Province 2012), two Super Rugby titles (the Bulls 2007 and 2009), victory over the British and Irish Lions (2009), a Tri-Nations title (2009) and a World Cup winner's medal (2007).

But he would much rather hope to be remembered for being a team man, rather than an individual with many records.

"You definitely want to be remembered as a guy who gave his everything out on the field, no matter what," Habana said.

"You want to be remembered as a guy who always put the team first - who was never bigger than the team and was always willing to sacrifice for the team.

"Then, also, a guy that people enjoyed being around."

Asked about his decision to join the exodus to Europe, the Bok said it was a decision made with his head more than his heart.

"The last seven months, since having made that decision, has flown by pretty quickly," Habana said, adding: "You sit back now, with only a few days left in SA, and it starts getting emotional."

Last Tuesday he had his last training session at the HPC, the Stormers and WP training base in Bellville, and last Wednesday was his last training session with the team at Newlands.

And last Saturday he scored one of his team's three tries in their emphatic 30-13 demolition of the South African Super Rugby conference winners, the Bulls.

"It comes to pass a lot quicker than you think," the wing said, adding: "You try to make a decision with your head, but the closer it comes to realisation, the more emotional it becomes."

But he will almost certainly return to Cape Town after 2015.

"I am looking forward to making Cape Town my home when I return.

"No matter where I am in the world I will always remain proud of South Africa - this country means an unbelievable amount to me."

By Jan de Koning

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