CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Bryan Habana, South Africa's prolific wing and record test try-scorer, has agreed to join French club Toulon at the end of the Super 15.
Habana's move, the subject of speculation in South Africa during the offseason, was announced on Friday by the Western Province Rugby Union, which oversees the Stormers, and on the 29-year-old player's own website.
"I've had three great seasons in the Cape thus far and I am looking forward to finishing off on a high before taking on a new challenge overseas," Habana said. "Rugby Club Toulonnais has an incredible pedigree and some phenomenal players and working with everyone there is going to help me improve my game — and hopefully I can bring something new to the team there as well."
The Stormers said Habana, a 2007 World Cup winner and scorer of a record 47 tries in 83 tests for South Africa, signed a pre-contract agreement to move to Toulon after the Super 15 and "as the 2013-14 Top 14 season gets underway." The Super 15 ends on Aug. 3.
Habana said his move to Europe would not affect his international career, where he is also South Africa's most capped wing ever, but that might be tricky with the French season beginning around the time of the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship in August. The Rugby Championship runs until early October.
Nevertheless, Habana said he would still be available for South Africa as long as he was selected by coach Heyneke Meyer.
"Playing for the Boks is a huge part of my life and I would never turn my back on my country," Habana said. "I'll never stop giving 100% on the field for any team I play for and if the Springbok coach picks me, I'll be there."
A former IRB world player of the year for his record-equaling eight tries at the 2007 World Cup, Habana underlined his lasting value to South Africa in 2012 with a prolific season. He scored a tournament-leading seven tries in the Rugby Championship, which also equaled the competition's record, and was named South Africa's player of the year and won the international rugby players' try of the year award.
Habana said he had recovered from the knee injury that prevented him from touring with the Springboks on their end-of-season trip to Europe late last year and was fit for his last season with the Stormers.
"The rehabilitation has gone well and I haven't experienced any complications at all," he said. "We're back at preseason training now and I'm looking forward to putting in some serious work to get myself back up to speed ahead of the new season."
Along with the World Cup, Habana won the 2009 Tri-Nations, two Super rugby titles with former team the Bulls, and the Currie Cup last year with Western Province.