Wingman Kolbe ready to unlock Bok attack

Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa during the Springbok media conference at Southern Sun Hotel in Pretoria on Wednesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa during the Springbok media conference at Southern Sun Hotel in Pretoria on Wednesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jul 5, 2024


“Nah, I don’t think he will wear one,” Chesin Kolbe said, chuckling, when imagining Makazola Mapimpi with a scrum cap on. “He is experienced and he is a special player but I don’t think we will ever get that right.”

The current crop of Springbok wings have become an iconic sight, their features obscured. Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse have stepped this way then that to evade the attentions of defenders, leaving them in their dust, the only way to identify them the proud numbers on their backs.

Add the recently-capped Edwill van der Merwe to that shrouded duo and the confusion is real. So, it was with a chuckle earlier this week that Kolbe dismissed any notion of teammate Mapimpi joining their disguised number.

Cheslin Kolbe lifts the Webb Ellis Cup last year. The Boks’ only loss at the 2023 Rugby World Cup was against Ireland. | BackpagePix

For the record, on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld against Ireland (kick-off 5.05pm) Kolbe will be wearing the No 14 jersey, Arendse 11.

Along with the precocious Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu on the bench, and the mercurial Willie le Roux marshalling them from fullback, they could form a potent back-three combination. The skills of the wily Kolbe and Arsendse are well-documented, while Le Roux is arguably one of the best distributors in world rugby.

The task of unlocking their full potential has fallen on new assistant coach Tony Brown, and Kolbe revealed that the New Zealander has brought a different dynamic to the team.

Said Kolbe: “The way he sees the game, the way he thinks about the game, it is exciting for us as a group, especially the outside backs.

“We need to make sure that we do what we have trained for throughout the week and whenever there are opportunities for us on the outside, just capitalise on that and make sure that we keep going forward.”

Earlier this week, attack coach Brown revealed what he expects from the Boks. Handre Pollard was singled out during his briefing, with the Kiwi hoping to unlock the flyhalf’s attacking prowess, as exhibited during his under-20 playing days.

Pollard shared Kolbe’s sentiments regarding Brown.

“I really enjoy Tony,” said the 30-year old No 10.

“He has been a real breath of fresh air for us. We were very privileged to have Felix (Jones) with us in the past. Tony just thinks about the game differently. He has experience all over the world.

“We’ve enjoyed him a lot since he has come in. If that gets us going at the line a little bit more and playing a bit more on the gain line, that’ll be great.”

Meanwhile, Kolbe returns to the matchday 23 having just recovered from a knee injury.

“I have been working hard with the conditioning team and I am confident and I am happy to be back,” he said curtly.

Kolbe was also a part of the team that lost to the Irish during the World Cup group stages last year. Arendse was on the other wing during that 13-8 loss, with Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende the centre pairing.

The backline for this weekend, however, will be without Damian Willemse and Faf de Klerk due to injury, and who have been replaced by le Roux and Grant Williams. Manie Libbok, who missed crucial kicks at goal during the September match, has been swopped for the surety of Pollard.

On reflection, Kolbe admitted that the Boks were careless during that defeat, even though he recorded the only try for the national team during that match – the 13th of his career.

“We weren’t clinical at times to take our opportunities,” he said.

“At Test levels you have to capitalise and make the most out of it. Looking back at it, there were a lot of learnings.

“It also brought us back down to earth during the World Cup. That is done.

“Our focus is far away from that,” he continued. “We can still learn from the mistakes but it is a new team and there are a lot of exciting guys getting an opportunity.

“We have to be clinical. We have to bring out our experience and X-factor.”

Kolbe has never beaten the Irish, and though the Boks have insisted across the board that they are not seeking revenge for three consecutive defeats to the Emerald Isle, there is no doubt he and his teammates will seek to rectify that particular losing streak this weekend.

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