Bryan Habana: Can rugby bring S Africa together again?

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 3:15 PM

When Nelson Mandela pulled on the well-known green Springboks rugby jersey in one thousand nine hundred ninety-fifth and inspired the team to win the World Cup for the first time, and on residence soil, it was supposed to bring about a revolution to a country which had endured years of apartheid.

Bryan Habana: Can rugby bring S Africa together again?

It was heralded as the breakthrough moment for the "Rainbow Nation" -- presently Bryan Habana wants rugby to transmute S Africa once again.

When Nelson Mandela pulled on the well-known green Springboks rugby jersey in one thousand nine hundred ninety-fifth and inspired the team to win the World Cup for the first time, and on residence soil, it was supposed to bring about a revolution to a country which had endured years of apartheid.

Habana was twelve when S Africa defeated New Zealand in that final, just three years after being readmitted to the international sporting arena following the finish of its segregation policies.

Presently he hopes to feature at the Olympics with S Africa'south rugby sevens side and create yet more more history by winning a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in August.

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"I think being S African, being in a country that sport has offered so much in rebuilding -- in integration, in bringing people together -- being able to have this opportunity to do it again and hopefully be portion of a team to bring back a gold medal, it'south something not only I'd like to do but each every member would love to do," Habana told CNN World Rugby.

In one thousand nine hundred ninety-fifth, Mandela, the nation'south first post-apartheid president, stood smiling following to Boks Capt Francois Pienaar as he lifted the trophy in front of thousands of fans in Johannesburg. That success would inspire Clint Eastwood's two thousand nine Hollywood blockbuster "Invictus," starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

S Africa triumphed again in two thousand-seventh, this time defeating England in the Paris final, with Habana the tournament'south leading attempt scorer.

Success at the Olympics would be just another chapter in an already glittering career.

At the age of thirty-two, he's the World Cup'south joint all-time leading attempt scorer, has collected one hundred seventeen international caps, been named as the best player on the planet -- and he'south also gone head to head with a cheetah in a sprint race.

The pace which once allowed him to clock 10.2 seconds over one hundred meters may have faded slightly but his skill to crack through defenses remains.

Habana is one of several star names to create the switch from XVs to sevens ahead of Rio two thousand sixteen, along with New Zealand'south Sonny Bill Williams and Australia'south Quade Cooper.

Returning to sevens after a 12-year hiatus, he said he was blown far by the increased fitness levels required for the shorter format of the game.

He was released by French club Toulon to play tournaments in Las Vegas and Vancouver, with a view to earning a space in S Africa'south Olympic squad.

"The opportunity to represent your country is always a massive privilege and honor," Habana says. "Being able to do so at an Olympics event and being able to obtain a gold medal is probably the biggest achievement any athlete can do.

"It'll be immensely important, not only to these players but to our country. We've seen in the past gold-medal athletes coming residence from the Olympics, and by doing the country pleased it brings the nation (together) that so badly needs it at the moment.

"It just does wonders that number other thing can do, you know, and love the grand late Nelson Mandela said, sport has the skill to bring people together in a way love no other."

Habana was portion of the S Africa side which competed at the two thousand fifteen World Cup, losing to eventual winner New Zealand in the semifinal.

The Springboks, shocked by minnow Japan in their opening game, nearly didn't create the tournament at all due to the ongoing dispute over quotas for non-white players.

A case was brought against the S African Rugby Union on the grounds that the squad selected had failed to meet the government'south policy on transformation.

Habana backed then coach Heyneke Meyer, who said he'd kept to the rules by selecting nine players of color in his team -- a figure which met the minimum quota of thirty%.

Habana has presently returned to Toulon -- which continues the defense of its European title in following weekend'south quarterfinals at the same time the Blitzboks get portion in the showpiece Hong Kong Sevens.

He made an impact in Las Vegas and Vancouver, scoring his first sevens touchdown, but is distant from assured from a space in the Olympic squad. Teammate Seabelo Senatla is the competition'south top try scorer, with forty-three from thirty-four matches in the 2015-16 season.

Habana has been replaced for this month'south tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore by debutant Siviwe Soyizwapi, with the two thousand fourteen Commonwealth Games sevens gold medalists sitting second in the world series standings.

"I think we were all a small uncertain how precisely I could contribute (to the sevens side). This has been a massive learning curve for me, and I don't think I'm quite where I necessity to be yet," Habana told reporters after Vancouver, where S Africa lost in the final.

"It's challenging trying to balance playing in the northern hemisphere and also contributing to the sevens group.

"It'south been a very special three weeks to be portion of this group, I've been made to perceive really welcome, and to be on the circuit again was a dream come true."

Can Habana create history in Rio? Have your declare on CNN Sport'south Facebook page

For more sevens news, visit the CNN World Rugby page

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