BRYAN HABANA has enthralled Newlands with some devastating running at times during his three years in the Cape, and now in his final season with the Stormers, he says it would be “even more fitting for me to contribute” to a successful campaign.
Chosen as the SA Rugby Player of the Year for the third time in 2012, Habana is excited about helping the Stormers to emulate Western Province’s Currie Cup triumph with a Super Rugby trophy.
The 29-year-old confirmed earlier this month that he will be joining French club Toulon at the end of Super Rugby, and having come so close at the Stormers to adding to his two winners medals from the Bulls, the record Springbok try-scorer believes Allister Coetzee’s team are well-equipped to go all the way following two consecutive home semi-final defeats.
“We’ve got close in the last three years, and like in the Currie Cup, we’d just like to get over that final hurdle. The desire of each player, from the leaders who have been around for the last 12 years like Jean and Schalk, to the new guys and youngsters, is to get over that final hurdle.
“And if I could lead by example, then I would like to take every opportunity I can. Going into my fourth and final year, it would be even more fitting for me to contribute,” Habana said after practice in Bellville yesterday.
“What I do take out of the last three years is that we have been conference champions for two years in a row, and that’s something very positive for me, but something that a lot of people look past.
“You play against the best players in the southern hemisphere, not just South Africa, week-in and week-out. I know we got pipped by the Sharks last year, but to go 14 weeks on the go in the toughest competition in the world and come out as the top SA side is a positive.”
Habana will have a new teammate in the back-three this year in the shape of Springbok Jaco Taute at fullback and Gio Aplon at right wing, with the trio lining up for the first time in Saturday’s warm-up against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“(Taute) has been fantastic. One of the most promising youngsters in South Africa at the moment, with the amount of energy he brings. Jaco put his hand up for that Bok selection early in last year’s Super Rugby. What the Test experience has done for him is that it has given him that bit of leadership skills that he can utilise at the back – making brave calls,” Habana said.
“We as a back-three are excited. Myself and Gio have played with Joe (Pietersen) for quite a while, so we need to learn a bit of Jaco. I think he is going to run the ball back a lot more than what we are used to! So, we as a back-three are going to have to work much harder to get back and support him, but it’s an exciting prospect.”
Coetzee named a strong line-up yesterday for the Cheetahs match despite missing stars such as captain Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Elton Jantjies, Peter Grant, Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt, Andries Bekker, Tiaan Liebenberg and Scarra Ntubeni due to injury and other reasons.
Meanwhile, Sapa reports that Bok flank Juan Smith will make a welcome return after two years out injured for the Cheetahs against the Stormers.
“He will get some gametime, even if it is only 10 minutes,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske confirmed on Wednesday.