JOHANNESBURG. — When Bryan Gary Habana – a 21-year-old optimistically named after former Manchester United players Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey – made his test rugby debut as a replacement for the Springboks in 2004, he came perilously close to running on with his beanie on, so cold and nervous was he.
At that very moment, few could have guessed that the bundle of nerves, bright-eyed eagerness and potency tripping over itself to get onto the Twickenham turf would retire as the bona fide Springbok legend he did this week. Not until he scored with his first touch of the ball in test rugby, anyway.
And from that day on Habana – possessed with a fleetness of foot matched only by the razor sharpness of his mind – has traded only in significance in a journey which made him a World Cup winner (2007); a World Rugby Player of the Year (the same year); a two-time Super Rugby winner; a two-time European Rugby Champions Cup winner; a French Top 14 champion; and a two-time Currie Cup winner.
Critical to the Lions, Bulls, Stormers, Toulon and Boks’ decorated career was the mountain of tries (184) the centre-cum-winger scored.