Currently away with the Boks, Bryan Habana hasn't been distracted by the outlandish statements of Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon.
Currently away with the Springboks, Bryan Habana hasn't been distracted by the outlandish statements of Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon.
Habana will be in line for his 102nd cap against the Wallabies in Cape Town next weekend, but the Toulon owner earlier this week demanded that Habana along with Bakkies Botha and Argentina's Juan MartÃn FernÃ¡ndez Lobbe return to play for their club.
Perhaps Habana wasn't distracted because those kind of outbursts from Boudjellal aren't new. In the same week he also raised the possibility of cancelling Leigh Halfpenny's contract.
“It's not up to me to decide on going back. We have the right lines of communication. SA Rugby have been working hard behind the scenes to address the rumours that have been going around this week,” Habana exclusively told Planet Rugby.
“Mourad is a very outspoken guy when it comes to making his feelings to the world known.
“I understand where he's coming from, but unfortunately we as players are caught in the middle and hopefully we can sort things out as quickly and amicably as possible.
“It definitely hasn't been a distraction.”
Habana added that he in fact played for Toulon during the Rugby Championship last year, albeit for a grand total of ten minutes.
Boudjellal's demands can seem outrageous to outsiders. Yet as Habana knows, the millionaire has put everything into making Toulon a success, along with turning around some players' careers.
“Leading up into the Rugby Championship last year I got told to go back and played ten minutes against Grenoble. That is Mourad being Mourad,” added Habana.
“He's a very unique character, but he's also given a lot of players not necessarily a lifeline, but an opportunity.
“Look at a guy like Juan Smith, who a year ago wasn't close to playing rugby again and went on to become not just one of the best players in the Heineken Cup, but also being called up by the Springboks again.
“Mourad has built the club up into something really special. Winning the double last season was just reward for a guy who has put in a lot of his own money. He has voiced a couple of things, but we can get it sorted out as quickly as possible.”
There's no doubt that Habana has unfinished business at Toulon. Even after winning the Top 14 and Heineken Cup in his first season, injuries to his hamstring and thigh kept him off the field for five months.
“Last year was pretty frustrating, because being injured for five months of the season wasn't ideal for my first season,” stated Habana.
“I'm looking forward though to getting back there with some world-class players – it's nice to see Matt Giteau sign for another three years.”
One of those world-class additions to Toulon's squad of course has been Halfpenny, the Wales full-back who earlier this week was the centre of uproar when Boudjellal mentioned his contract might be cancelled because of uncertainty over when his groin injury originated.
Habana has nothing but respect for the British and Irish Lion, relaying what he saw from Halfpenny in training during pre-season and underlining his status in the sport.
“Leigh is one of the most respected players in world rugby,” said Habana.
“I don't know what's happening behind the scenes, but when I was back there in Toulon for about two weeks doing pre-season, Leigh was trying to push himself to get back.
“I know he desperately wants to play for Toulon. Hopefully those rumours are sorted out as quickly as possible.
“We have a great team, a nice squad, and I'm missing my croissants in the morning so it'll be good to get back there as soon as possible after the Rugby Championship.”