Bryan Habana was one of the most explosive try-scoring machines to have ever played this game. His ability to accelerate away from the opposition and score game-winning tries was a hallmark of his highlight-filled career starting in the early 2000s and ending at Toulon in 2018.
The young Bryan Habana was a talented rugby player. Born in Johannesburg, in 1983, he went on to finish his schooling at King Edward VII, popularly referred to as KES, which is one of the top sports schools in South Africa.
After finishing his schooling, he went on to the University of Johannesburg. Playing in the Varsity Cup is often a logical next step for rugby players in South Africa with big aspirations, but things would change quickly as his rugby abilities pulled him into the sport full-time.
Bryan Habana’s club rugby career
His career started a little more quietly at the Lions, where he played from 2002-2004 when he also became a Junior Springbok.
He then moved on to the neighbouring Blue Bulls where he played from 2005-2009. He went on to win two Super Rugby titles in 2007 and 2009 respectively and this was partly due to his brilliance!
The game-winning try in 2007 was a piece of individual brilliance that left the whole Sharks team flatfooted and gave the Pretoria-based franchise their first Super Rugby title.
2007 was a particularly amazing year for Bryan Habana as he also helped the Springboks win their second World Cup ever. In that World Cup, he became the first player to equal the great Jonah Lomu’s 1995 record of scoring 8 tries in one World Cup tournament.
Those tries were some of the most spectacular tries of his career! Two years later, in 2009, he also played his part in securing a series win against the British and Irish Lions.
In that same year, he also won another Super Rugby title with the Bulls, etching his name into the history books for the Blue Bulls. This was followed by a move to their rivals, the Stormers where he played from 2010 to 2013 and featured in a losing final against the Bulls in 2010.
Two of the things that made Bryan an exceptional player were his tremendous speed and his ability to sniff out a try.
His amazing speed was on display when he raced a cheetah over 100m and he had a 100m time of 10.4s to his name!
Some of his most spectacular tries however came from absolutely nowhere. He would create something from nothing with very little space to work with, would intercept and score with regularity and displayed exceptional skills with chip kicks he would run down to score spectacularly.
Habana went on to play from 2013 to 2018 for French side Toulon where he continued his try-scoring and amassed numerous records. During his time at Toulon, he secured a Heineken Cup and Top 14 title in the 2014 tournament and another Heineken Cup in 2015.
Playing for these respective club teams he racked up 535 points from 107 tries! The blueprint for many of these was simple: get the ball in his hands and he will do the rest.
This would always lead to another try…and another…and another…and another…
Bryan Habana’s Springbok career
He was also no slouch for the Springbok team and became their all-time record try scorer with 67 tries, totalling 335 points.
He played for the Springboks from 2004 to 2016 and picked up a World Cup winner’s medal in 2007 equaling the try-scoring record of 8 tries in a single tournament.
His test career started on the end-of-year tour in November 2004. He made his debut as a 21-year-old who came off the bench in a 32-16 losing effort by the Springboks.
He managed to score a try the first time he touched the ball against the 2003 Rugby World Cup holders. This was definitely a sign of more things to come as he started piling on the tournament wins, records and awards.
There was the World Cup win in 2007, where he scored 8 tries. In 2009 he was part of the Tri-Nations and Lions series winning teams, to go with his Super Rugby title at the Bulls.
Individual achievements being awarded World Rugby Player of the Year in 2007. In 2005, 2007 and 2012, he was also crowned SA Player of the Year.
All of this is on his way to becoming South Africa’s all-time leading try scorer and the player who scored the 2nd most international tries ever.
The Bryan Habana Springbok tries
Bryan Habana was able to score at will at just about any of the opposition teams he played against. The countries that he scored against fewer times were often only because he didn’t play against them a great deal.
His favourite opponents to score against were clearly the bigger rugby nations and this is a rough breakdown of the tries he scored as a Springbok.
He scored 6 tries against old foe England. He scored 4 tries against Scotland, France and Wales respectively. Against the big teams, he showed his class and really turned it on. He scored his most international tries against Australia with 9 in total.
Against Argentina, he scored 8 and was also able to stack up 8 tries against arch-enemy New Zealand!
Against the smaller teams, he still managed to achieve quite a few tries. He scored one for the Springbox XV in 2014, ran in 2 against Uruguay, and 1 against Namibia.
He got a massive return of 8 tries against Samoa, 6 against Italy and 5 against the USA. He scored another 2 against Ireland and 1 against the British and Irish Lions.
Bryan Habana had a spectacular rugby career and showed pure class wherever he played. He would outrun, outwit, intercept, chip, chase, and, inevitably, score.
By pure talent and focus, he became one of the deadliest try scorers to ever play the game!