Bryan Habana is looking forward to wearing the colours of the Stormers for the first time in Saturday’s Neo Africa Tri-Series match against Western Force, but he will delay any nerves until the opening Super 14 match against the Lions in Johannesburg on February 13.
Gavin Rich – Sport24
“No matter how big the stage is that you have played on, you do obviously feel nervous when you are starting out with a new team,” said Habana.
“But the game on Saturday is just a warm-up game, broken into four quarters. It is all about getting systems right, getting in some practice ahead of the real thing. You want to win, but it is not imperative, so I wouldn’t say I am too anxious about the Force game.
“What will be big for me though is the match against the Lions. That is where I started my senior career before moving across to the Bulls for five years, and I always like to do well against them. I obviously also want to make as big an impression as I can for my new franchise, and it will be crucial to win our opening Super 14 match.”
He has only been in the Cape for a few months, but Habana feels he has settled quickly into his new life – and the fanatical Stormers fans have helped.
“I can’t believe how welcome everyone makes me feel. Everywhere I go people are going out of their way to welcome me to the Cape.
It is really humbling. Of course in Pretoria you get the true blue Bulls fan, and they are special people, but it is astounding how in Cape Town you can be 600 metres away and people will shout out to you and let everyone in the shopping centre know you are there. This is fanatical rugby country.”
Habana would like to reward the enthusiasm of the Cape fans by helping create a winning culture like the one that has seen his former team establish themselves as the leading provincial team in world rugby.
“I had an honest chat with Rassie Erasmus when I was being recruited by the Stormers. It took me about 10 days to make up my mind, and one of the things I wanted to make sure of was that I was moving to a place where a winning culture could be created,” said the 26 year old Springbok wing.
“I was impressed with Rassie’s plans and his determination to get the Stormers and Western Province to succeed. I felt I wanted to go somewhere I could make a difference, but I would never have moved down if I could not see the potential for the Stormers to be a winning franchise.
“Obviously I came here not quite knowing what to expect, but the work ethic here has been amazing. To see the work the guys are putting in, and to be part of it, has been really encouraging. Work ethic is a big thing at the Bulls, and it was one of the reasons I might initially have been sceptical about moving down, but thankfully my fears have been completely allayed.
“Elsewhere there is a perception that the Stormers have a bit of a surfer image, but when you see Joe Pietersen running so hard in the front in training, to see the amount of work that Juan de Jongh puts in during the gym sessions it completely sweeps away any misconception.”
Although he was sweating it out for the Bulls last year, Habana was also encouraged by what he saw from WP in the Currie Cup.
“The progress being made is clear for all to see. WP were one high tackle away from being in the Currie Cup final, somewhere I don’t think they have been since 2001. There has been a revolution in the Cape approach to the game, with the forwards now putting in the hard yards. We will be looking to play exciting, attacking rugby this season, but that will not be possible without a strong pack. The WP pack came a long way in 2009.”