Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Cape Town - He got his hands on the Currie Cup trophy when Western Province won it in Durban last year, but Bryan Habana
has left little doubt that he believes the Stormers still have the big one to conquer in his last season with them.
The Springbok wing will continue his career in France at the conclusion of what will be his fourth Super Rugby season with the Cape team. He told the supersport.com website that although winning the domestic trophy did whet the appetite and bring some self-belief to the youngsters in the side by ending the so-called silverware drought, the southern hemisphere regional title is the one the players most covet.
“It’s really difficult to compare the Currie Cup to Super Rugby because they are such a different level of competition,” said Habana, who won two Super 14 titles with the Bulls in 2007 and 2009.
“The way I look at it is that we have been the South African conference champions in the last two years, but we still have to get over that final hurdle. We have come very close in the past few seasons, but because we have fallen just short there is a really strong desire among the senior players for us to get across the line this year.
“In Super Rugby you are playing tough rugby for (16 weeks), so to finish top of the log, as we did last year, was a real achievement and something really positive. Even though we lost to the Sharks in the semi-final, what we did took quite an effort. But we still need to go further, and I think we saw when the Lions won the Currie Cup (in 2011) that it means nothing when it comes to gauging how you’ll go in Super Rugby.
“What the Currie Cup win did do was inspire belief that we could win a trophy, but Super Rugby is a very different competition. After three happy years in the Cape I would really like to see us cap off the progress that has been made by winning Super Rugby. I know I speak for other senior players like Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers when I say that.”
Habana said that the knowledge that he would be leaving the Stormers at the end of it would not detract from the intensity with which he approaches Super Rugby in the 2013 season.
“This season will be no less important than the other nine I have experienced in my career have been. I feel like I have been part of a successful Stormers team during the years I have been here and I would like to end off my stint here on a successful note,” he said.
The infusion of a couple of stars from the Lions has added depth to the Stormers this season, particularly at the back, and Habana is hopefully set to benefit by being managed carefully through the campaign after a very busy 2012 season that ended with an unfortunate injury in the Currie Cup final.
“Hopefully I will get the odd chance to rest, but obviously every player wants to be part of the team and part of every game as much as possible. I think the aim will be to have the best team on the field for 80 to 85% of the games. But the extra depth does bring healthy competition, and you can feel the players are being pushed. Someone like Joe Pietersen is in great condition and will push the rest of the (back three) players strongly for their places.”
Pietersen has been a Stormers stalwart over the past few years but may well find himself on the outside of the starting team looking in because of the arrival of Jaco Taute, the Lions Springbok who has come to the Cape on loan. Habana is excited about what Taute could bring to the Stormers back three mix.
“I think for a start we are going to have to get used to the idea that he will be running the ball back a lot more than we are used to,” said Habana.
“It is sad to see the Lions not playing Super Rugby this year, but it’s fantastic to have Jaco playing for us. He brings a lot of energy and is a player who was touted for bigger things ever since he left school. He has Bok experience now and that will mean he is able to contribute from a leadership perspective.”
The Stormers start their 2013 Super Rugby campaign away to the Bulls on Pretoria on Friday, February 22.