Bok ace Ha­bana ready for last hur­rah

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

SOUTH Africa try scor­ing legend Bryan Ha­bana has given his broad­est hint yet that this sea­son will be the last of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

Cur­rently re­cov­er­ing from the knee in­jury that kept him out of last sea­son’s French Top 14 fi­nal, Toulon star Ha­bana is tar­get­ing a re­turn early next month but ad­mits he may call it quits when his con­tract ex­pires next June.

Ha­bana, who has an in­cred­i­ble 67 tries to his name in 124 Test ap­pear­ances, ad­mits his hopes of a Spring­boks re­call are now vir­tu­ally zero and has al­ready given up hope of ap­pear­ing at a fourth World Cup at Ja­pan 2019.

Speak­ing at a Rugby Cen­tu­ri­ons event in Lon­don last week, Ha­bana, 34, told The Rugby Pa­per: “For me at the mo­ment, it’s just about get­ting back on the field.

“My con­tract with

Toulon ends in June and I haven’t thought much fur­ther than that, but we’ll see how my body feels towards Jan­uary/Fe­bru­ary time.

“Ob­vi­ously I’ve had an un­be­liev­able ca­reer and if this was to be my last sea­son, I can’t re­ally look back and com­plain about what I’ve had.”

Ha­bana, a World Cup win­ner in 2007, added: “I prob­a­bly won’t be in­volved in the Spring­boks again so for me it’s about tak­ing it day-by-day, month-by­month over the next eight months now to see where my ca­reer is go­ing.

“Rugby’s given me so much and you want to go out on your own terms, but I don’t think I’m go­ing to be able to do that given that the last few months have been rather frus­trat­ing in­jury-wise.

“I’m run­ning again now and my pre­dicted re­turn from knee surgery is Oc­to­ber 7, so I’ll get back on my feet and if there’s an­other year in it, that may be a pos­si­bil­ity.

“But I def­i­nitely won’t be aim­ing for Ja­pan in 2019 – maybe as a bag­gage mas­ter, but def­i­nitely not as a player.”

Ha­bana’s last ap­pear­ance in a Spring­boks jersey – a hu­mil­i­at­ing 20-18 de­feat to Italy last Novem­ber – is not one he will look back at fondly.

Ha­bana said: “2016 was a dis­as­trous year and I was part of it. Los­ing to Italy for the first time was not the way I wanted it to end, but hope­fully my con­tri­bu­tion to South Africa over 12 years will never be un­der­es­ti­mated.

“(Fly-half) El­ton Jan­t­jes strug­gled in the green jumper last year but has now taken his Su­per Rugby form on to the in­ter­na­tional stage, while there’s good depth at wing with Court­nall Skosan and Ray­mond Rhule do­ing well.

“The com­bi­na­tions ap­pear to be work­ing and Al­lis­ter’s (Coet­zee) been able to do a lot more plan­ning.

“While it’s too early to judge their chances for 2019 and there’s a bit of catch­ing up to do with New Zealand and Eng­land, from my own ex­pe­ri­ence in 2007 any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

If this sea­son is to be Ha­bana’s swan­song, he aims to bow out a win­ner with Toulon.

He added: “There’s not much you can say about last sea­son af­ter Toulon went through five coaches and three head coaches, but to then win six of our last seven matches and reach the Top 14 fi­nal was ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble.

“There’s a re­build­ing job go­ing on now un­der Fa­bien Galthie, but we can take a lot from what we did at the end of last sea­son and it feels like a brand new era.

Near­ing end: Ha­bana

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