TOULON – Springboks star winger Bryan Habana insisted on Wednesday that he felt physically able to keep playing, hinting that retirement has been virtually forced upon him.
The 34-year-old, sidelined with a knee injury since April 2017, announced Tuesday that he was hanging up his boots at the end of the French Top 14 season where he has been playing with Toulon.
However, Habana accused Toulon coach Fabien Galthie of ignoring medical evidence that had cleared him for action.
“I returned to training five months ago. The medical teams told me I was fit. Not to play is not my choice,” said an emotional Habana at a news conference.
“I repeat, I have worked really hard for nine months to come back, and I have not had the opportunity to play again.”
He added: “Fabien Galthie thought I was not 100 percent. I know the job of a coach is not easy and there are world-class players at Toulon in my position. I understand that.
“But I think that I would have had the profile and experience to still be an option for the team and at least play one more time.”
Knee-injury victim Habana arrived at Toulon for the 2013-2014 season, playing in two victorious European Cup teams as well as collecting a Top 14 title.
With 124 Springbok caps he is second in the all-time list only to Victor Matfield, but holds his country's record of 67 Test tries, the first coming against England at Twickenham in November 2004.
Habana added that he felt cheated that he wasn't able to choose the time of his retirement.
“Jonny Wilkinson retired after a double (in the European Cup with Toulon). Richie McCaw (former New Zealand skipper) quit after becoming a world champion.
“Me, I was unable to do this. To stop this season, it's really tough. But this is the way things are.
"When I look at the past, I can say to myself well it was just one season that wasn't great.”