Habana will hang up his boots at the end of the European season in May. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – SA Rugby president Mark Alexander hailed Bryan Habana on Tuesday, saying that he will “undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great legends of Springbok rugby”.

Habana announced that he will stop playing at the end of the European season in May, where he is contracted to Toulon.

A number of niggling injuries have kept Habana off the field for most of the current season, which followed a serious knee problem in 2017.

It is understood that he wanted to give it one last crack for the Springboks if he could regain his form, but it was not to be.

Read: Springbok record-holder Bryan Habana announces his retirement

Nevertheless, Habana – who will turn 35 in June – has had an astonishing career, and SA Rugby boss Alexander praised the Springbok record try-scorer (67 in 124 Tests) for serving his country with distinction, having won a Rugby World Cup, Tri-Nations, Super Rugby and Currie Cup, as well as the European Champions Cup with Toulon.

Habana is the only player since unity in 1992 to have been named the SA Rugby Player of the Year three times –2005, 2007 and 2012 – while he was also the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2007 on the back of a fine World Cup campaign.

So it’s my turn to say Thank You: . The inevitable moment has come knocking on my door and I’ve welcomed it in for a drink. . It’s been more than a year of hoping, trying, pushing and willing to get back on the field for one last time, to taste the sweet victory or encounter that gut-wrenching despair. To hear the roar of the crowd or grab the pill out of the air. To make that last bone crunching tackle or score that last game winning try. But it’s unfortunately just not to be. I, like most, would have liked my career to have ended differently, but sometimes things don’t turn out quite the way we hope for. . So at the end of this season, it’s time to say goodbye and thank you to the game I so dearly love. . To try and sum up the past 16 years and how quickly they’ve flown by or even begin to describe how amazing the journey has been is impossible. . I would though like to express my gratitude: . • First and foremost, to God for blessing me with the talent to play this beautiful game. • To my wife Janine, Timothy and our newborn Gabriel, for your support, sacrifice and love to follow me to all corners of the earth so that I can pursue my dreams. • To my family and friends, far and wide, who wore their hearts on their sleeves as much as I did. • To the coaches, team-mates, medical and support staff in all the teams I was involved in. • To every opponent that made the battle tough and worthwhile. • To all my sponsors over the years who believed in me enough to support me on the journey. • To the fans, who make the game what it is. • To the critics, not to prove you wrong but so that I could prove to myself I could. • To the media, who take the game to households the world over. • To the lessons learnt, through the good times and the bad. • To the friendships made and experiences a plenty. . But most of all to Rugby, because for me it truly is a game made in heaven. . As a close friend one said: “memories are all we have.” And I’m immensely grateful for the memories I take with me into the next chapter. . With much respect . BH11

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“We have been privileged to have witnessed the career of Bryan Habana, who will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great legends of Springbok rugby,” Alexander said in a statement on Tuesday.

“During a career that spanned more than a decade-and-a-half, he stood out as one of the most professional players ever to don the Springbok jersey, and over the years, Bryan has been central to many of the most memorable occasions in the era of professional rugby.

“We will never forget every time he delighted us by crossing the try-line or putting in yet another bone-crunching tackle, but those close to him will also remember the Bryan that was a true professional, always going about his task giving 100%.

“He was also a leader in all the teams he played for and set an example to younger players of what is needed to succeed at the top.

“But most of all, he was a proud South African who was a wonderful ambassador to our country wherever he went. When it came to using rugby as a tool for nation-building, Bryan was always in the front of the queue.

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“As a player, Bryan has set the bar incredibly high for succeeding generations. He has left behind a legacy of discipline, leadership and professionalism. He and his family can be very proud of all that he has achieved.”

Habana’s last Test was the November 2016 defeat to Italy in Florence.

But now he will look forward to the next part of his life with his wife Janine and sons Timothy and recently-born Gabriel.

 


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