Starting the season with a bonus-point win on the road is certainly something for Western Province fans to crow about. Even more encouraging was Cheslin Kolbe’s emergence as a potential stalwart at fullback, and his deadly tactical combination with Seabelo Senatla.
It was a flash of Kolbe acceleration that carried the dynamo across the line for the bonus-point try in a 35-16 win against the EP Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday.
But it was in the moments when Kolbe did nothing remotely jazzy that he showed the most promise.
Over the course of two seasons, Kolbe – who made his first senior start at No 15 on Saturday – has established a reputation for confounding tacklers with the agility and elusiveness of a stray cat.
However, there remain doubts about whether a man of his stature (1.7m, 78kgs) is vulnerable to being physically overpowered and outjumped as a defender, and whether such an explosive talent has the maturity and related skill to offer the team more than just a deadly counter-attacker.
In PE, Kolbe began to address those questions with the right answers.
WP haven’t kicked off a Currie Cup campaign with a win since 2010 but, while they should be pleased with the result, the reality is that the Kings played like paupers and, on another night, the visitors would have run in three more tries.
Therein lay the test for Kolbe. The Brackenfell burner must have been tempted to run everything back at the sub-standard Kings.
Instead, he set his sights downfield, squared up his hips in line with the target and fired a kick into enemy territory.
Kolbe’s refusal to be baited into a run-fest denied the Kings their primary objective – a loose game, devoid of set-piece stoppages.
It also showcased the 20-year-old’s tactical nous, the savvy to evaluate individual opportunities within the framework of team parameters.
It was such a moment of awareness that saw Kolbe team up with Senatla in an exquisite tactical play.
WP were leading 20-11 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter when Kings flyhalf Gary van Aswegen floated a kick over the defensive line.
Kolbe was perfectly positioned to collect the ball on the hop and, though he found himself in possession and in space, he surmised it was more prudent to invest in territory.
Van Aswegen was beaten by an excellent return kick that hugged the touchline but stayed in bounds.
The EP pivot eventually fielded the ball, but then made the tragic error of underestimating the blistering pace of Senatla, who had chased Kolbe’s rainbow.
Senatla hit Van Aswegen at full speed, dislodging the ball to create a turnover that led to Michael van der Spuy’s try in the corner.
A pin-point kick was converted into a try-scoring turnover when Senatla followed through on the chase and, though neither of them rounded it off, Kolbe and Senatla both had a hand in its inception.
It is far too early to install Kolbe as the Stormers fullback for next season, but there are signs that he may yet prove to be the complete package.