South Africa's record try-scorer Bryan Habana announced Tuesday he was hanging up his boots after a glittering career at the end of his French Top 14 club Toulon's season.
In an emotional post on Instagram the veteran wing, who turns 35 in June, said: "The inevitable moment has come knocking on my door and I've welcomed it in for a drink."
Knee-injury victim Habana, who last played for Toulon in April 2017, added: "It's been more than a year of hoping, trying, pushing and willing to get back on the field for one last time, to taste the sweet victory or encounter that gut-wrenching despair.
"But it's unfortunately just not to be. I, like most, would have liked my career to have ended differently, but sometimes things don’t turn out quite the way we hope for.
"So at the end of this season, it's time to say goodbye and thank you to the game I so dearly love."
He was hailed as "one of the greatest South African sportsmen of all time" by South African rugby federation chief Mark Alexander.
Habana arrived at Toulon for the 2013-2014 season, playing in two victorious European Cup teams as well as collecting a Top 14 title.
So it’s my turn to say Thank You: . The inevitable moment has come knocking on my door and I’ve welcomed it in for a drink. . It’s been more than a year of hoping, trying, pushing and willing to get back on the field for one last time, to taste the sweet victory or encounter that gut-wrenching despair. To hear the roar of the crowd or grab the pill out of the air. To make that last bone crunching tackle or score that last game winning try. But it’s unfortunately just not to be. I, like most, would have liked my career to have ended differently, but sometimes things don’t turn out quite the way we hope for. . So at the end of this season, it’s time to say goodbye and thank you to the game I so dearly love. . To try and sum up the past 16 years and how quickly they’ve flown by or even begin to describe how amazing the journey has been is impossible. . I would though like to express my gratitude: . • First and foremost, to God for blessing me with the talent to play this beautiful game. • To my wife Janine, Timothy and our newborn Gabriel, for your support, sacrifice and love to follow me to all corners of the earth so that I can pursue my dreams. • To my family and friends, far and wide, who wore their hearts on their sleeves as much as I did. • To the coaches, team-mates, medical and support staff in all the teams I was involved in. • To every opponent that made the battle tough and worthwhile. • To all my sponsors over the years who believed in me enough to support me on the journey. • To the fans, who make the game what it is. • To the critics, not to prove you wrong but so that I could prove to myself I could. • To the media, who take the game to households the world over. • To the lessons learnt, through the good times and the bad. • To the friendships made and experiences a plenty. . But most of all to Rugby, because for me it truly is a game made in heaven. . As a close friend one said: “memories are all we have.” And I’m immensely grateful for the memories I take with me into the next chapter. . With much respect . BH11
With 124 Springbok caps he is second in the all-time list only to Victor Matfield but holds his country's record of 67 Test tries, the first coming against England at Twickenham in November 2004.
He played a critical role in South Africa's 2007 World Cup triumph, scoring a record-equalling eight tries but his Springbok career ended on a low note in Florence in November 2016 with a historic maiden 20-18 loss to Italy.
He equalled the late New Zealand great Jonah Lomu's 15-try World Cup haul in 2015.
He was named world player of the year in 2007, and was South Africa player of the year in 2005, 2007 and 2012.
"As a player, Bryan has set the bar incredibly high for succeeding generations," Alexander added on the federation's website.
"He has left behind a legacy of discipline, leadership and professionalism. He and his family can be very proud of all that he has achieved."
Habana has struggled to force his way back into the Toulon side after undergoing knee surgery last year.
He told his Instagram followers: "To try and sum up the past 16 years and how quickly they've flown by or even begin to describe how amazing the journey has been is impossible."
He expressed his thanks to everyone from his family and friends, to his coaches and teammates, "but most of all to rugby, because for me it truly is a game made in heaven".
Habana signed off by adding: "As a close friend once said: 'memories are all we have'. And I’m immensely grateful for the memories I take with me into the next chapter."