Why Ha­bana’s happy

Bryan adds a new di­men­sion to the Storm­ers’ chal­lenge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

SUC­CESS sto­ries are ad­dic­tive, and Bryan Ha­bana has be­come too used to them just re­cently for him to will­ingly give up the ad­dic­tion.

So why did he move to the Cape, where the lo­cal team hasn’t seen a fi­nal, let alone a tro­phy of any kind, since 2001?

Ob­vi­ously money played a part in his de­ci­sion to for­sake the union with which he had won two Su­per 14 ti­tles and most re­cently the Cur­rie Cup, but at no stage when you speak to Ha­bana does the earnest Spring­bok su­per­star give any im­pres­sion he might be crazy.

It would be crazy for Ha­bana to base ev­ery­thing around money, and it quickly be­comes ap­par­ent that he didn’t do that.

The de­ci­sion to link up with the Storm­ers was a con­sid­ered one, and he saw enough be­fore mak­ing his choice to feel his new ca­reer would see a con­tin­u­a­tion of the suc­cess he has be­come so used to.

“Vic­tor Mat­field summed it up when he spoke af­ter the Blue Bulls won the Cur­rie Cup fi­nal last year,” says Ha­bana.

“He said winning gives you a greater will to carry on winning. Suc­cess breeds a greater hunger for suc­cess, and when it be­comes a habit, it is a habit you want to main­tain.

“I know that only too well, which is why my de­ci­sion to move down was not just about a de­sire to taste a new en­vi­ron­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence Cape Town life.

“I want to be part of an­other suc­cess story, and af­ter speak­ing ex­ten­sively to Rassie Eras­mus be­fore mak­ing my de­ci­sion, and see­ing the growth made by West­ern Prov­ince, I made up my mind that there can be an­other suc­cess story here too.”

Ha­bana says it was 10 days be­tween when he first came to the Cape to speak to Eras­mus, Al­lis­ter Coet­zee and Stor mers manag­ing di­rec­tor Rob Wagner and when he made up his mind to make the move from the Bulls.

He needed a change, his mind was lean­ing, be­fore the ap­proach, to­wards France, but he also wanted to go some­where he felt he could make a dif­fer­ence.

He wanted to give some­thing back to lo­cal rugby and per­for m the same men­tor­ing role that Percy Mont­gomery and Brey­ton Paulse did with him early in his ca­reer.

He wanted to do it while also hav­ing a good chance of winning – and he reck­ons WP of­fered that op­por­tu­nity.

“I was ini­tially scep­ti­cal be­cause work ethic and winning cul­ture is a big thing at the Bulls, but it did not take me long to re­alise that my­self and Rassie were on the same page,” said the 2007 IRB Player of the Year.

“When you play rugby you want suc­cess, but to have that suc­cess you have to have the ma­te­rial and the right ap­proach.

“That was why the de­ci­sion to come to the Storm­ers was a harder one for me to make than when I moved from the Lions to the Bulls.

“When I was go­ing to the Bulls I was mov­ing to a union that was al­ready suc­cess­ful, that had won tro­phies, had sys­tems in place, and had 12 Spring­boks.

“But I liked what Rassie told me and I also liked what I saw hap­pen­ing in the Cape.

“WP made every­one take no­tice last year, and they were one high tackle away from mak­ing the fi­nal for the first time since 2001. And in that game they got the bet­ter of one of the best packs in world rugby.”

Ha­bana has made a mas­sive con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing the pre­sea­son as a leader at Stor mers train­ing ses­sions.

While he says there are a lot of dif­fer­ences be­tween the Bulls and Storm­ers ap­proach, work ethic is not an area where the Storm­ers are lag­ging.

“The work ethic is im­pres­sive, and for me to see that was im­por­tant. When I played for the Bulls there was a per­cep­tion of a surfer boy im­age at the Storm­ers, but that has changed.

“I have been quite amazed by how pro­fes­sional and hard work­ing every­one is. Much hard work has been put in dur­ing the pre-sea­son, and the amount of work some­one like Juan de Jongh puts in dur­ing the gym ses­sions has been as­tound­ing.

“There is a lot of tal­ent in our squad, a lot of prom­ise, and to see the young play­ers progress and grow is go­ing to be re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

Ha­bana has found it chal­leng­ing to adapt to the Storm­ers pat­tern, but he en­joys chal­lenges, and likes the ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity play­ers have to make on­field de­ci­sions.

When draw­ing up com­par­isons to the Bulls, va­ri­ety is the key word that Ha­bana em­ploys to de­scribe what makes the Storm­ers dif­fer­ent.

“Much of the Bulls squad is made up of play­ers who came through un­der Heyneke Meyer in 2002, when they won a Cur­rie Cup and Vo­da­com Cup to­gether.

“As a re­sult of be­ing to­gether so long, they tend to have the same thought pat­tern, there is a lot of same­ness about ap­proaches, at­ti­tudes and per­son­al­i­ties.

“What makes the Cape so ex­cit­ing is the much greater va­ri­ety of peo­ple who come from so many dif­fer­ent walks of life and back­grounds.

“It is eas­ier in Pre­to­ria, where every­one is think­ing the same way, but the coaches have placed a big em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing the right bal­ance, and I think it works.

“To me it seems that right now all the ar­rows are point­ing the right way, and that is im­por­tant.”

The 26-year-old ad­mits it was hard to say good­bye to the Bulls af­ter five years, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing how much the play­ers had been through to­gether in winning the Su­per 14 against first the Sharks in 2007 and then the Chiefs last year.

“The Bulls are a close knit group and I have made friend­ships there that will last a life­time, but rugby is a pro­fes­sional sport and you have to make de­ci­sions that will help your ca­reer.

“Just as I gave my life to the Bulls, WP and Storm­ers can ex­pect the same from me over the next two years.”

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