Habana could help Blitzboks

Bryan Habana looks increasingly unlikely to be included in the Blitzboks’ Olympic squad, but he could still assist the team in the lead-up to the Rio Games. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

After a more than 10-year absence from the sevens set-up, Habana was drafted into the Blitzboks’ squad for the Las Vegas and Vancouver Sevens in March, and by all accounts his contribution to the team was beneficial both on and off the pitch.

However, Habana was unable to be considered for the final two upcoming legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Paris and London, with a June camp and invitational tournament really offering the only other opportunity for him to rejoin the Blitzboks in time to be considered for Olympic selection.

At last week’s squad announcement for the Paris Sevens, coach Neil Powell told SARugbymag.co.za that there were various factors to consider when weighing up Habana’s availability, but he also said that the Toulon-based stalwart had generously offered to help the team in any way possible.

‘I’ve had a discussion with Bryan, and he’s unfortunately got a hamstring injury at the moment, so if he can’t join us for the three-week camp [in June] then he won’t be able to be selected for Rio. He understands that.

‘There are two factors that could keep him out, one being his injury, but the other also being the semi-finals and final of the French Top 14. So, we’ll stay in touch, and even if he’s not going to make it to Rio, he’s keen to train and help us wherever he can. That says a lot about the quality person that he is.’

Although a host of 15s players were included in the Blitzboks’ Olympic planning this season, various commitments and time constraints has meant several of them have been unable to meet the requirements to be considered for selection.

‘We wanted to have a look at some of these 15s players just to broaden the base of players for the Olympics, but unfortunately some of them haven’t been able to play in a tournament this series to make themselves available,’ Powell commented. ‘But I still believe we have enough quality players in the system to be successful and if you look at how we’ve performed against top opposition this season, I’m confident we can be successful in Rio.’

The Blitzboks currently lie second in this season’s Sevens Series standings, and have been drawn in a pool with England, Australia and Brazil for the Paris Sevens.

Photo: Don MacKinnon/AFP Photo

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Craig Lewis