The life of Bryan

World-class players know when their game is up.

Last week, one of the world’s greatest sportsmen announced his retirement thus: “The inevitable moment has come knocking on my door and I’ve welcomed it in for a drink.” In an era of professional sport where players become media stars, it was deferential. And yet it oozed a classy, quiet confidence. But then, that’s typical Bryan Habana.

His remarkable success as a sportsman is without question: He ends his international rugby career with 124 test caps, and is the highest try-scorer in Springbok rugby history – with 67 tries – and the second-highest try-scorer in international rugby.*

His playing earned him the prestigious SA Rugby Player of the Year Award three times – in 2005, 2007 and 2012 – and the World Rugby Player of the Year Award in 2007. Not bad.

Oh, yes, and the agile speedster once raced a cheetah, and almost won (Google ‘Bryan Habana races cheetah’).

But that’s not what makes him world-class; that would be his temperament both on and off the field. He’s famous for his clear enjoyment of the game – it’s hard to find a picture of Bryan Habana not smiling. Mind you, continually scoring tries would cheer up most players.

Habana’s convivial spirit has earned him the respect of rugby fans and the world’s sports writers, teammates, sponsors, rugby administrators, and the vast network of medical and other support personnel. More importantly, he’s earned the respect of players he faced on the field. He returned the favour in his Instagram post announcing his retirement; he thanked “every opponent that made the battle tough and worthwhile”.

The announcement must have been hard for a man who clearly relishes the rush of rugby. However, he is 34 years old, last represented his country in 2016, and his current spell with French club side Toulon has been impaired by injury struggles.

Habana knew it was time to blow the final whistle on a truly stellar career, and for someone as quick and agile as he, that’s understandably foxy.

*Because we know you’re wondering – the highest try scorer in international rugby is Daisuke Ohata of Japan with 69 tries.

[This article originally appeared in the publication Fox Bytes and on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 30 April 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]

Image: Getty Images