Habana glad to avoid Armitage

Date published: November 13 2014

South Africa wing Bryan Habana is pleased that Toulon team-mate Steffon Armitage wouldn’t be facing him at Twickenham on Saturday.

South Africa wing Bryan Habana is pleased that Toulon team-mate Steffon Armitage wouldn’t be facing him at Twickenham on Saturday.

Armitage may be the reigning European Player of the Year but by playing for French giants has made himself unavailable for England, with the RFU holding to their policy of selecting overseas-based players only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Premiership side Bath attempted to sign the openside flanker last month but, in the absence of financial assistance from the RFU, decided the price was too high.

Now it seems that Armitage will play no part when England stage next year’s World Cup.

With South Africa looking to bounce back from their surprise 29-15 defeat by Ireland in Dublin last weekend, Habana was relieved Armitage would not be in the England line-up.

“Nothing against the current England back row, who I think are pretty good, but I’m really happy that I’m not playing against Steffon,” said Habana.

“Steffon is an exceptional player, has had a fantastic year and has played a massive role in the success Toulon have achieved over the last two seasons.

“He’s playing a brand of rugby that means he should be selected but at this stage England are adhering to their protocols. It’s sad that a player of his calibre isn’t getting exposed at international level.”

However, Habana added: “He definitely wouldn’t let that England jersey down, but unfortunately he chose that option a couple of years ago and has to live by his decision.

“As a player you understand the rules and regulations so when you do decide to take an offer overseas coming from a country where those rules are in place, you fully understand what you’re getting into.

“I’ve had chats with Steffon about it. It’s difficult for him. He really loves England and loved playing for the country.

“It’s frustrating if you’ve been playing a level of rugby that sees you named European player of the year yet are not playing for your international team.

“It could be a little heartbreaking for him, but it’s a decision he’s taken and a decision he understands.”

England have beaten Southern Hemisphere giants South Africa, New Zealand and Australia just twice in 12 Tests under coach Stuart Lancaster, with none of those wins against the Springboks, but Habana believes they are an improving side.

“They’ve been on a very steady upward curve,” added Habana.

“They’ve managed to restore a lot of pride in the jersey and they’re playing a brand of rugby that means they can push a lot of top teams very close.

“They’re on the up and having the World Cup in England next year they will want to go out and show they deserve to be up there with the best in the world.

“It hasn’t been an easy road but they’ve got to the point where they’re respected globally.”