Why Habana’s happy
Bryan adds a new dimension to the Stormers’ challenge
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.”