On the verge of his 100th cap for the Springboks,. Bryan Habana has revealed he was tempted to play for the Wallabies before committing to South Africa.
After a starring role in the 2004 Under-21 World Championship’s in Scotland Habana was offered a fast track to Test rugby with the Wallabies. Instead, he will be hoping to humble Ewan McKenzie’s side in an attempt to keep South Africa at the top of the Rugby Championship table.
Habana remembers the approach from Australia: “One of the Australian management team approached me and asked whether I wanted to take the Clyde Rathbone route. I didn’t get involved and told the guy to talk to my dad, then when we got back to South Africa dad and I sat down and had a serious chat about the offer. I think I surprised myself by how close a call it was.
“The thing was that I had a two-week break after the tournament and looking ahead to the Currie Cup all I could see was the number of players there were in front of me at the Lions. They had Jaque Fourie, Jorrie Muller, Gcobani Bobo (all Springboks) and Rudi Coetzee competing for the two centre berths and I couldn’t see a way through all of them.
“You always want to be the best you can and I looked at what Australian rugby did for Clyde Rathbone, making him one of the best wings in the world. South Africa didn’t want to use him at the time and they spent three years making him bigger, stronger and faster and I thought, well, that could be me. Also South African rugby was doing well at the time, but you’re never sure how things are going to go in this country with the politics involved.
“Ultimately I think the decision to stay was less psychological than from the heart. The fact is that every boy who picks up a rugby ball in this country wants to play for the Springboks, aspires to pull the green and gold jersey over his head. I don’t know whether Jake White had heard about the approach I’d had from Australia, but when he called to say that he wanted me to join the squad it was so great to know that somebody had noticed me.”
Do you think things might have been different for the Wallabies over the past 10 years had Habana decided to make the switch?