Published July 24, 2013
TOULON, France (AFP) – World Cup winning South African wing Bryan Habana admitted the lure of the European Cup and Top 14 rugby had proved too much as he completed his move to Toulon.
The European champions have finally got their man after a long courting process that began back in 2008 when president Mourad Boudjellal met Habana's father.
And the maverick president continues to build a side that many other squads would look enviously towards.
Winning the European Cup last season, in an upset final success against Clermont, is not enough for Boudjellal, who envisions dominating French and European rugby for years to come.
That success was tempered anyway by a Top 14 final reverse at the hands of unfancied Castres.
And 30-year-old Habana said it is exactly such an ambition that attracted him to the south coast of France.
"For a lot of southern hemisphere players the Top 14, the English league and the H-Cup (the European Cup) have become very exciting," he said.
"Toulon have been progressing for the last 3-4 years, it's an ambitious club that won the H-Cup. They've laid the foundations and for many players it's an attractive club."
Following his move from Cape Town's Stormers, Habana was officially presented to the press on Wednesday.
But he said this was a move that had been long in the making.
"I've been in contact with Toulon for quite a while. I've known Mourad for a long time and I've been speaking with (head coach) Bernard Laporte since last season.
"I signed a contract in January and since then I've been supporting the team from a distance.
"I was able to enjoy their fantastic season, even though they missed the last step (by losing the Top 14 final).
"It's important to set yourself objectives. There are some high calibre players here who make that objective exciting."
One of the main selling points for a move to Toulon for the 2007 world champion is that it will not rule him out of South Africa duty, unlike the case for New Zealanders and Australians.
"I've also come here with the 2015 World Cup in mind as I'm leaving the door open to that given there's no rule that excludes South Africans playing abroad from selection."
Habana will be in good company with the likes of fellow Springboks Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Joe Van Niekerk also on Toulon's books, alongside England legend Jonny Wilkinson, Australian Matt Giteau and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni.
"It's true there are a lot of big names here and that will facilitate my transition because I need to adapt to a new environment and a new challenge," added Habana.
"But the (foreign) players who come here are not at the end of their careers, this are top international players who still want to achieve great things.
"You have to work hard to wear this shirt."