The individual is never big in the Stormers team, says Bryan Habana, and he has been very impressed with the Stormers “collective” in the last 11 weeks.
Len Kaplan – Rugby365
He is happy with his move to Cape Town, both on and off the field, and is keen to help the Stormers achieve success in the coming weeks.
Speaking after Stormers training at their High Performance Centre in Bellville on Wednesday, Habana was enthusiastic about every aspect of his move to the Mother City and of his first few months in the Stormers camp.
“I didn’t come here just to be part of the numbers and to enjoy what Cape Town has to offer; we want to do something special in Cape Town and I really do believe that this team has got that potential. To me as a player coming down, wanting to make a difference, to see the work ethic first of all that is involved in the side and the drive to want to be successful – [this is] where I want to be at the moment.”
The 57-Test cap Springbok continued: “I definitely think it’s not about Bryan Habana. I think the contribution you make can only be important if you are working hard enough not for yourself but for the team cause.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to work even harder in the next couple of weeks and push for a contribution that sees this team become successful.”
He is particularly impressed with the Stormers team ethic, saying: “The individual is never big in this team; we all want to achieve success and if you want to achieve success in some form, each individual has got to contribute. We pick up the energy from each other.
“I think we’ve been led particularly well by Schalk [Burger], and the leaders in the team, the senior guys, have put their hands up as well. I think the collective in the last 11 weeks has probably been the most pleasing thing for us as senior players and for the management. We’re continuously progressing.”
Habana said he was keen to do everything he could to help the team achieve success. “Hopefully my experiences and the stuff I’ve learned over the last five years can contribute to the success of the Stormers.”
He had no regrets about leaving Pretoria and the Bulls for Cape Town and the Stormers.
“The memories I made there will stick with me forever but as a person, as a player, if you want to become fully part of something, you have to forget what happened in the past. I’ll always be appreciative of what the Bulls, Loftus and the supporters offered me. The memories I’ve made there have been some of the best in my life but I’ve got to move on and I’ve been involved in something very special down here.
“From the first day Jaque [Fourie] and I got here, it’s been an absolute journey that I’ve enjoyed every second of.
“The people in Cape Town have been unbelievably friendly. My wife and I have been amazingly welcomed and for me to pay back on the field is probably the biggest contribution I can make, the biggest thank you to everyone in Cape Town.
“It was a big decision I made last year and one I’m definitely not regretting and one I’m fully enjoying at the moment.”
Asked whether he was enjoying his rapport with the Newlands crowd, who have all but lifted the roofs off the stands with their cheering every time he has touched the ball, Habana said: “It’s been really fantastic. Coming down here, I wasn’t too sure what to expect and to see the way I’ve been received not only by my team-mates but by the whole Cape Town community has been absolutely awesome.
“The last four or five months have been the most exciting I’ve been able to achieve outside of rugby. Cape Town has got a lot to offer and it’s a beautiful place to stay in. I’d like to start [repaying] the crowd for the faith they’ve shown in me by crossing the whitewash – and contributing to the success of the team is probably the most important aspect.”
He felt the team had made good progress through the Super 14.
“We started off with quite a high error rate in the competition and by the time the Brumbies game came, we started seeing that that was our only downfall.
“In the first game against the Lions, we were a bit nervous, a little bit tense as to what we wanted to do,” he said, but he was impressed with the progression “and to see where we’ve come as a team now”.
He singled out lock Andries Bekker “who has put his hand up so high” for his exceptional contribution.
The backs were always striving for improvement. “The challenge for us as a backline is to continue growing. We probably let ourselves down a bit against the Reds last week.”
As a team they had not dominated territory against the Reds as much as they had against the Chiefs and the Blues and “we’re probably going to have to take more responsibility going into this game”.
The backline leaders would play a more decisive role this week. “I think that people like myself and Jaque [Fourie] and Peter [Grant] will really look forward to the challenge of this week and the backline as a whole will want to play a lot more than we did against the Reds last weekend.”
He said that sorting out errors, like handling, had been part of the team’s focus for a couple of months, not just in recent weeks, and “overseas we saw that we could keep the ball against some of the best teams in the competition and it really worked for us”.
“It’s not something we’re stressing about. We know as a team that unforced errors caused us some very narrow losses but we’re very excited about the three tough games coming up – but [this week] all our focus and energy are only going into the Crusaders.”
“I don’t think we’re going to change much from what’s been working for us in the last 10 games. We’ve got our destiny in our own hands and if we can pick up from the positives coming out of this tour, we really can be excited about the next three weeks.”
Habana said that the mental approach was important and he felt that getting to the business end of the Super 14 meant the experience of playing in finals and similar games was very important. He hoped that the experience gained by himself, Schalk Burger and Jaque Fourie in the World Cup, and the three of them plus Andries Bekker against the British and Irish Lions and in the Tri-Nations, would help the Stormers.
“The mental preparation is totally different here to what it is at the Bulls,” he commented. “You can’t compare the environment here to what you get at the Bulls and when you get to a stage of the competition where it gets quite tight, you’ve got to perform in the circle you’re in and what worked for the Bulls might not necessarily work for the Stormers.”
Habana had enjoyed being able to contribute to the development of players around him.
“As a team player I think it’s been an awesome task to come down here and lend my experience and the value of what I’ve been able to achieve in the last couple of years.
“It’s been great to be able to contribute and to help guys like Juan de Jongh and Tim Whitehead come through and help Sireli [Naqelevuki] regain confidence, and to see Gio [Aplon] take over from Joe [Pietersen], who was having a great season, and to be able to contribute to their confidence has really been fantastic.
“Someone like Tim Whitehead – at the beginning of the season no-one would have thought he would be involved and he’s put his hand up in some of the big games.”
On his personal approach, Habana said: “I want to continuously improve. I’ve sort of been happy with where I’ve been in the last couple of weeks but I’m never happy if I can’t continue growing.
“If ever you’re happy with where you are, there’s always going to be be a lot of people going past you. The biggest thing I probably learned at the Bulls was that if you want to stay number one, you’ve got to train like you’re number two. That’s been my motto coming down here.
“I still think I’ve got a lot more to offer. Hopefully in the next couple of years I want to put on that hooped jersey and lend to the Western Province culture not just the Stormers.”