JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rugby sevens will also be missing a global star on its return to the Olympics next month, although it’s got nothing to do with Zika.
Bryan Habana, the World Cup-winning South African wing who set his sights on adding an Olympic medal to a career bursting with titles and honors in the 15-a-side game, failed Thursday to make South Africa’s final squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Habana set aside his commitments with South Africa’s main Springboks team this season to return to sevens, which he hadn’t played at the top level for more than a decade, in the hope of going to Rio. He appeared in the world sevens series and was on an initial “Blitzboks” training squad named for the Olympics.
“My appreciation and gratitude for getting the opportunity to have been a part of the @blitzboks #RoadToRio far outweighs the disappointment of not making the final squad,” Habana wrote on Instagram.
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My appreciation and gratitude for getting the opportunity to have been a part of the @blitzboks #RoadToRio far outweighs the disappointment of not making the final squad. I find myself incredibly fortunate to have become a part of a very special brotherhood, to have pushed myself further than what I had imagined in making the transition over to 7s being helped each and every step of the way by all the members of the squad and getting to experience just how much love these boys have for each other! Their hard work, dedication, commitment and never say die attitude is immensely infectious and will stand them in good stead as they head over to Rio to challenge for that Gold medal. To Neil, his coaching staff and each member of the squad, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to have been so warmly welcomed back into the 7s family. To those players selected, keep on pushing each other as the final training weeks approach and go out there and express your talents to the best of your abilities! I'll be your biggest supporter and cheering you on loudly from Toulon!!!
Rugby – this time in the seven-a-side form – will return to the Olympics next month for the first time since 1924.
Habana joins another big name in the 15-man game, Australia’s Quade Cooper, in missing out on selection for his country’s Olympic team.
Habana has won a World Cup and a southern hemisphere title with the Springboks, and also southern hemisphere and European club titles. He was the world player of the year in 2007.
One 15-a-side international, Juan de Jongh, did make South Africa’s 12-man squad while another, Francois Hougaard, is one of two traveling reserves.
South Africa is among the favorites for gold in the Olympic rugby sevens alongside other traditional sevens powers Fiji and New Zealand.