Springbok star Habana joins Toulon

Springbok and Western Stormers wing Bryan Habana confirmed Friday he would join French club Toulon after the 2013 Super 15 season.

South Africa's Bryan Habana scores a try against Australia during the Test match between Australia and South Africa at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on September 29, 2012. Habana confirmed Friday he would join French club Toulon after the 2013 Super 15 season.

A statement from the 29-year-old star, who won the 2012 IRB Try of the Season award, ended months of speculation about his future as he sought to cash in on the much higher salaries offered in Europe.

Habana helped the Springboks win the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and after a slump in form that left many pundits demanding he be axed from the national squad, the left wing bounced back last year to be voted South African Player of the Year.

"It is a wrench to leave my country, but the chance to test myself against different opposition in a new environment was difficult to turn down," Habana admitted.

"Toulon have an incredible pedigree and some phenomenal players and working with everyone there is going to help improve my game and, hopefully, I can bring something new to the team as well."

Habana has signed a three-year contract, beginning with the 2013-2014 French Top 14 season, and among his Toulon team-mates will be former Springbok lock Bakkies Botha.

Having scored 47 tries in 83 Tests, Habana wants to continue wearing the green and gold, and coach Heyneke Meyer has shown more interest in Europe-based stars than predecessor Pieter de Villiers.

"Playing for the Springboks is a huge part of my life and I would never turn my back on my country. I will never stop giving 100% on the field for any team I play for and if the Springbok coach picks me, I will be there."

However, Habana stressed that his immediate focus was the southern hemisphere championship with the Stormers, who are usually in the title shake-up but have never claimed won it.

"Hopefully we can build on last year -- this young team has the opportunity to dominate for years to come and I am proud to be sharing my experience with the next generation of stars."

Habana said he was far down the road to recovery after being injured early in the 2012 Currie Cup final against the Sharks, which the Stormers' sister team Western Province won against the odds.

Habana made his Test debut against then World Cup title holders England at Twickenham nine years ago, coming on as a second-half replacement and scoring a try.

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Writer: AFP
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