Habana talks to Meyer about move to Toulon
BRYAN Habana has spoken to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer before making a decision on joining French club Toulon later this year.
Last Friday, the Western Province Rugby Union said Habana would join the French club after the 2013 Super 15 - but Habana hopes it won't end his Test career. Toulon began wooing Habana some months ago and he met their representatives late last year, keeping Meyer informed as talks progressed.
"I've had quite a bit of chat with Heyneke," Habana told Cape Talk.
"The decision was always about where I wanted to go.
"My aim is to play well enough to be selected for the Boks again after the Super rugby tournament, which is all I can do.
"I'm not too sure where Heyneke is going with the team, but I would love to be a part of it.
"I'm not closing the door on that part of my career because I still have one or two things I want to achieve in the Springbok jersey.
"Hopefully my performances in Super rugby will see me selected and then when I'm in France I hope I can do enough to impress the Bok selectors. I believe I have more to offer South African rugby."
Habana's decision, coming just two years before the World Cup in England, would certainly have been harder if Meyer were a coach who ignored foreign-based players.
But last year the coach said he would pick players from anywhere in the world if he felt they could add value. Francois Louw (Bath), Heinke van der Merwe (Leinster), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse) and Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) played Tests, while Japan-based Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie were approached.
The latter pair declined because of strict conditions in their lucrative club contracts, but both might return in the months before the World Cup to try to play their way into contention.
Meyer's selection policy has emboldened players to seek high wages elsewhere, knowing that they still have a good chance of representing South Africa.
Late last year, lock Juandre Kruger said he'd be off to Racing Metro at the end of the 2013 Super rugby season even though he'd just established himself in the Bok No5 jersey.
Kruger knows he is valued, especially because Andries Bekker has back problems, so his stock has soared. There doesn't appear to be a viable No5 solution beyond those two.
Flyhalf Morné Steyn has been courted by Stade Francais and the player met their representatives soon after the Boks' November tour to Ireland and Britain last year, while agents all over are seeking to place their clients on lucrative northern-hemisphere club contracts, especially if it won't affect their Test-playing aspirations.
For 29-year-old, 83-Test veteran Habana, uprooting to France is a logical move in the autumn of his career. He will earn enough money in three years to retire comfortably, with the added bonus of playing in a system that could add a year or two to his career.
Under the current Super rugby and Test schedule in the southern hemisphere, players are burning out quickly with massive physically intense games and a huge travel schedule taking their toll on minds and bodies.
Europe and Britain offer players an easier way of life with little away travel, rugby that is still hugely competitive and of a high quality, and where the demands and scrutiny are slightly lower than they endure in South Africa.