JOHANNESBURG – Recently-retired Springbok wing Bryan Habana has revealed how an essay he wrote about legendary Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll helped change his rugby destiny.
Speaking on Independent.ie's rugby podcast The Left Wing, Habana describes how former Lions coach Eugene Eloff encouraged him to write about a player that inspired him when he was just a youngster. At the time, Habana was making his way through the junior ranks at the Lions, but primarily playing at scrumhalf.
“Eugene pulled me aside, and I had captained the Lions Under-19s the year before, and he said I really believe that if you're going to make it you need to change to centre. He made me choose a player to do an essay on and firstly I was like, 'I quit university to play rugby and you're making me do an essay?'
“He said 'choose a player you can mould yourself around' and I'll never forget that I actually did a four-five page essay on Brian O'Driscoll. Brian had come onto the scene on that Lions Tour in 2001 and I did this whole essay on centre play and I actually got my big break playing at centre for the Lions in 2004.”
After impressing for the Lions that year, Habana went on to make his debut for the Boks against England on 20 November 2004, before making a career-changing move across the Jukskei River to join the Bulls, where he eventually began to settle on the wing.
Habana's blistering pace saw him quickly establish as one of the Bulls' favourite sons, while he remained an integral member of the Springbok squad. It was the start of a 124-Test career that saw him eventually finish as South Africa's leading try-scorer (67).
Last week, the 34-year-old confirmed that he would finally be hanging up his boots after a career that spanned 15 years. As fate would have it, it's a career that owed its roots to the guidance of Eloff, and the inspiration of a Brian O'Driscoll essay.
“Under his (Eloff's) tutelage, I moved from scrumhalf to centre and from there the fairytale continued.” Habana reflected. “He played a vital role on how my career turned out. He was important because he made that decision with me.”
African News Agency (ANA)