Habana’s career at a crossroads

Date published: November 21 2016

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 19: Bryan Habana of South Africa shows his dejection during the international match between Italy v South Africa at Stadio Olimpico on November 19, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Springbok wing Bryan Habana has revealed his future with Top 14 side Toulon will depend on his future commitments with his country at Test level.

Habana, who has played in 124 Tests, scored his 67th try for his country in their historic 20-18 defeat to Italy in Florence at the weekend.

The result was the two-time world champions’ first ever defeat to Italy and has led to calls for Bok head coach Allister Coetzee to resign as it was their seventh loss in 11 Tests in 2016.

Habana said it was Coetzee, who convinced him that he still has plenty to offer to the Boks as they look to build a team capable of challenging for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The 33-year-old admitted he is “looking towards the end of my career” and hopes to “play a part in seeing rugby become a truly global game”, but feels he still has plenty left in the tank.

“My body’s feeling rather good,” Habana told AAP.

But the 2007 IRB World Player of the Year’s career is at a crossroads.

Although he has a contract clause at Toulon which allows him to commit to South Africa, Habana feels his club “probably aren’t happy with me,” he said.

“My contract with Toulon ends next year, I’m currently in negotiations but we’ll see where the next six to eight months takes me. Over the last few years I’ve missed 32 weeks of rugby, given that I’ve played rugby championships, so I understand their frustration. I’m not involved in their first part of the season. So it will be something I take into consideration (when considering my international future).”

Habana would not confirm his commitment to playing at the 2019 World Cup, said SA Rugby policy on how overseas-based players fit into the system would be also be a factor.

“Yes, it is something,” he said.

“When I moved to Toulon back in 2013 they knew that my desire to play for my country was first and foremost above anything so it’s stipulated in my contract. SA rugby is in an interesting period in terms of the administrative and governmental policies. There’s a lot of debate that needs to happen. For us as players, at the end of the day we just want the best 15 or 23 players wearing the Springbok jersey. Hopefully we’ll trust the powers that be to make the right call in terms of what kind of protocol or obligations need to happen.”

Habana doesn’t want to become a token player for the Boks and when he was queried about the 2019 World Cup, he replied: “I said after the last World Cup it all depends on the form I’m putting on the field, that first of all warrants my selection. I don’t want to be picked for the Springboks just because I’m Bryan Habana. 2019 is quite a way away.”

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