Habana confirms Toulon switch
January 11, 2013
Bryan Habana looks set to join a growing number of South Africans in the south of France © Getty Images
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South Africa winger Bryan Habana has confirmed he will move to Top 14 side Toulon next season.
It was understood that the 29-year-old was contracted with the Stormers and Western Province until 2014 but it appears a release has been granted to enable the former IRB Player of the Year to make a high-profile switch to the French giants at the end of the forthcoming Super Rugby season on a three-year deal.
Capped 83 times for the Springboks - and their all-time leading try-scorer - Habana has made it clear that he hopes to continue his international career, should he be selected. "Playing for the Boks is a huge part of my life and I would never turn my back on my country," he said. "I'll never stop giving 100% on the field for any team I play for and if the Springbok coach picks me, I'll be there."
In a statement on his website, Habana said he was grateful to Western Province for providing him with some great memories over the past three years. "I'd like to thank everyone at Western Province for their support throughout my stay in Cape Town," he said. "I've had three great seasons in the Cape thus far and I am looking forward to finishing off on a high before taking on a new challenge overseas. Hopefully we can build on the success we experienced last year - this young team has the opportunity to dominate for years to come and I'm proud to be sharing my experience with the next generation of star players."
Western Province Rugby chief executive Rob Wagner commented: "As sad as it is knowing that Bryan will be leaving us after this year's Super Rugby season, he does so with our blessing and we would like to thank him for his contribution to the Western Province and Stormers teams over the past three years.
"We would like to wish Bryan and his wife everything of the best for their new chapter abroad, but we also look forward to him giving his all for the DHL Stormers during the 2013 Super Rugby season."
Habana insists the move wasn't an easy decision, but felt that the time was right to seek out a different challenge. "It's a wrench to leave my home, even if only for a short while, but the chance to test myself against different opposition in a new environment was difficult to turn down," he said. "Rugby Club Toulonnais has an incredible pedigree and some phenomenal players and working with everyone there is going to help me improve my game - and hopefully I can bring something new to the team there as well."
For the moment though, Habana has his sights set firmly on success with Stormers as he recovers from a knee injury sustained during the 2012 Currie Cup Final. "The rehabilitation has gone well and I haven't experienced any complications at all. We're back at pre-season training now and I'm looking forward to putting in some serious work to get myself back up to speed ahead of the new season. I'm 100% focused on what I want to achieve on the field this year and can't wait to get started."
Former South African internationals Joe van Niekerk and Bakkies Botha are already contracted at the Stade Mayol with another - Danie Rossouw - set to join them later this year following his current playing commitments in Japan.
The Springboks' World Cup winning captain John Smit is also expected to re-locate to the south of France from Premiership side Saracens at the end of the season while Bath's South African scrum-half Michael Claassens is another player rumoured to be in Toulon's sights.
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