The greatest wingers of all time: Bryan Habana
South Africa winger Bryan Habana was the first Bok to dot down 50 times in Test rugby, one record of many, that thrusts him into the bracket of greatest wingers of all time
Major teams: Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, Bulls, Stormers, Toulon
Country: South Africa
Test span: 2004 – 15
Test caps: 117 (115 starts)
Test points: 320 (64T)
– Information accurate as of 20/07/2016 –
Bryan Gary Habana was named after two footballers – Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey of Man Utd fame – but has spent more than a decade terrorising rugby defences rather than soccer ones.
He has chalked up records quicker than he sprints past opponents, scoring ten tries in his first ten Tests and 15 in his first 20.
We should have seen this torrent of tries coming after Habana, who was inspired by seeing the Boks win the 1995 World Cup, top-scored in the U21 World Cup in 2004 and made his Test debut the same year. Coming off the bench at Twickenham, Habana scored with his first touch and has hardly stopped since, whether playing for South Africa, the Bulls, the Stormers or Toulon in France.
Eight tries at RWC 2007 helped see him crowned as IRB Player of the Year. Earlier that year he had scored the winning try in the Super 14 final for the Bulls against the Sharks in stoppage time.
After his four-try World Cup haul against Samoa, Springboks coach Jake White said: “The way he went outside, inside underneath those people was amazing.”
A master of the intercept, Habana has assembled one of the biggest collections of winner’s medals in the game. On top of the 2007 World Cup, he has won two Super Rugby titles, a Tri-Nations, two European Cups and a Top 14 title and he became the fourth South African to reach 100 caps – after Percy Montgomery, John Smit and Victor Matfield – in 2014. Montgomery didn’t know who Habana was when he walked into the Boks team room in 2004. He knows all about him now. The joint-top try scorer in RWC tournaments, alongside Jonah Lomu, with 15.
In 2007 Habana, who has clocked 10.2s for the 100m, raced against a cheetah as part of a conservation campaign. For once he finished as a runner-up.