By his own admission, two-time European Cup winner Bryan Habana had not dazzled as much as a Rugby World Cup winner was expected to during his previous 16 months with RC Toulon – but that all changed on April 19, 2015.
The former South Africa wing conjured one of the most famous tries in European competition when he grabbed the match-winning interception score against Leinster Rugby in the semi-final in Marseille during a gripping extra–time period.
That epic tie is the second part of the Heineken Champions Cup Rewind double header this weekend on what should have been European Finals Weekend at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
Kicking off on Friday night, we have a re-run of the 2001 Heineken Cup final between Leicester Tigers and Stade Français Paris. Then, on Saturday afternoon, we travel back to 2015 for that vintage semi-final in Marseille.
“Being able to play in a city that was just down the road and to have our supporters being able to get there was brilliant,” the 36-year-old Habana recalled exclusively on the Champions Rugby Show recently.
“To go into extra time, you sort of know how much balance the game is in and for me personally, it’s not that I want to say I wasn’t at my best for Toulon, but to be able to make as big an impact in that particular game that saw us then go through to the final against Clermont and eventually win it.”
The 2007 IRB Player of the Year enjoyed watching the game again last month with his two small boys, as it earned Toulon a 25-20 victory.
Habana added: “To have those memories that you can pass on to your kids and them seeing their dad playing a part in such an incredible occasion is something that you can only dream of.
“I am so grateful that I got to be a rugby player, that I got to play the game professionally and that I got to leave the sport with so many memories. At the end of the day that’s all you have. You can look back at those memories, smile and share them with your loved ones, and you’re sitting in a pretty decent place.”
Heineken Champions Cup Rewind
Friday May 22 – Leicester Tigers v Stade Français Paris – 2001 final (20:00 UK and Irish time)
Saturday May 23 – RC Toulon v Leinster Rugby – 2014/15 semi-final (17:45 UK and Irish time)