Bryan Habana could extend his Springboks career for two more years but has ruled out another tilt at the elusive outright World Cup try record.
Habana botched four chances to overtake Jonah Lomu as the World Cup’s top all-time try-scorer as South Africa saw off Argentina 24-13 in Friday’s third-place play-off.
The 32-year-old shrugged off his disappointment at failing to land a 16th World Cup try by hailing New Zealand great Lomu as deserving to retain his share of the record, with he and Habana both having scored 15 times.
“I definitely won’t be at 2019,” said Habana, scotching the prospect he might play at the next World Cup in Japan.
“I will take some time off now and decide where I am as a player.
“I’m really proud of the last 12 years, it’s been an unbelievable journey.
“I’m not too sure it’s the end of my Test career yet. There is a lot to happen in South African rugby.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying that I didn’t break the record. Sometimes things don’t happen for a reason.
“I’ve known Jonah (Lomu) now since 2007, and his humility, passion for life and for the game, it’s unbelievable.
“As bad as it is for me not to score tonight, it just goes to show how great Jonah is. It’s sort of deserving if it gets to stick around for four more years.
“He’s changed the game in a way that no other player has done before, and the respect I have for him, he probably rightly deserves that record to be around a little bit longer.
“For me it’s disappointing, not for a lack of trying, I’ll look back on missed opportunities but smile deeply knowing Jonah’s name will stay up there for another four years.”
Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer replaced Habana with 13 minutes to play on Friday, cutting short the Toulon star’s chance to break the record.
Meyer later revealed Habana had cramp and could not continue at his top level, and the 116-cap wing fully accepted the decision.
“I was pretty disappointed with the way I played so I thought it was a justified replacement,” said Habana. “Unfortunately I didn’t play my greatest game ever wearing a Springbok jersey so it might be one I want to forget.
“After our opening defeat to Japan as a team and individuals we had to dig deeper than ever before.
“So to reach the semi-finals after that, we wanted to make the final, but we’re extremely proud of our tenacity.
“It’s always about trying to leave the jersey in a better place than you found it.
“I’ll never regret anything, I’ve laid it all out there.
“When I eventually hang up my boots and call it quits in two years’ time when I’m probably done I’ll look back and assess where I was.
“The game has definitely given me a lot more than I could have given it.
“To have the opportunity to play on the highest stage, the humility that goes with that is something that the game deserves, and the game needs.
“It’s been a great journey, hopefully it might go on one or two years longer, but there’s definitely no regrets on my side.”