World Cup-winning wing Bryan Habana remains a “top priority” for the Blue Bulls and they will vigorously pursue an extension of his contract with the Pretoria-based outfit in the face of renewed worldwide interest in the Springbok flyer.
The 26-year-old try machine is currently “weighing up his options”, with European newspapers suggesting that French Top 14 outfit Bayonne is leading the chase for his signature.
Habana, who was one of the key players in South Africa’s 2-1 victory in the just-completed series against the British and Irish Lions, has been repeatedly linked with a switch to Europe.
And, according to the latest reports, he met with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal and the club’s Director of Rugby Philippe Saint-Andrew on Thursday.
Habana, who is getting married in September, is on holiday in Europe with his soon to be wife Janine – while on a 10-day break from Springbok duty.
SA Rugby’s acting MD Andy Marinos was not immediately available for comment, but the High Performance Manager of the Blue Bulls Ian Schwartz confirmed that they are keen to retain Habana’s services.
“We are determined to keep him in Pretoria, as he remains one of our top priorities,” Schwartz told rugby365.com’s Jan De Koning on Friday.
“We know he is in high demand around the world and they are allowed to talk to him at present, as we are in that window period for negotiations.
“He is currently on national duty and not in camp with the Bulls, while he is also busy with his wedding arrangements. But we will be working hard to retain his services.”
Habana, the International Rugby Board Player of the Year in 2007, has previously indicated that he still has some unfinished business in South Africa – which include winning a Currie Cup with the Bulls.
However, according to reports flooding in from Europe, he again admitted that playing in Europe remains an option.
“It’s the one last challenge,” Habana is quoted as saying.
“Rugby is an international game and you could probably learn a few things overseas I’ve got an opportunity now. My contract with The Bulls ends in October of this year.
“But there’s a lot to take into consideration so I’ll need to get the right people around me. I’ll talk to guys who have played in Europe, like [Bulls and Bok lock] Victor Matfield and John Smit [the Bok captain], and get their advice. And I’ll speak to the coach and see what he expects of me leading up to the 2011 World Cup.”
Despite meeting with Toulon officials, while on holiday in France, it appears he is unlikely to get any big money offers from Boudjellal.
“We haven’t got a bottomless pit of money,” Boudjellal told radio station RMC.
“There is nothing concrete. Interest is one thing, reality is another. He is a very expensive player.
“We will not go beyond our limits. With our salary mass, we don’t figure among the richest clubs. Others have a lot more than us.
“We are anything but favourites [to sign Habana].”Tweet