Distant cousins, world 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk and pocket-rocket Sevens player Cheslin Kolbe, will both be chasing silverware in their respective events at this year’s Rio Olympics.
As primary schoolers the duo played rugby in the same team but have since followed different career paths with equal success.
Van Niekerk has emerged as one of the top sprinters in track athletics while Kolbe is one of the country’s top fullbacks in the 15-man game, and a leading proponent of Sevens rugby.
Kolbe said the family was excited about the pair going to the same Olympic Games where Sevens would be making its debut at the quadrennial showpiece.
“We spoke about a month ago how we will be making history in the family with two members participating at the Olympics,” Kolbe said.
“Reality is only sinking in now, and I still have to pinch myself. For the two of us it is a great honour and a privilege for our family to represent our country.”
Both have a realistic chance of winning medals at the Games with Van Niekerk one of the firm favourites for the one-lap sprint title.
The Blitzbokke capitulated somewhat towards the end of the 2015-16 World Sevens Series finishing in second place 10 points behind Fiji.
The team will, nevertheless, be among the top contenders for the first Olympic Sevens title.
As kids Van Niekerk and Kolbe would earn pocket money with their coach offering them R5 per try with their athletic ability proving to be quite lucrative.
“Wayde was the fast one all the years, and we needed to make sure we got the ball to him, and then he just needed to run,” Kolbe recalls.
“I started out in athletics and only fell in love with rugby at a later stage.
“I don’t regret the decision to specialise in rugby.”
Despite his diminutive stature, Kolbe has been able to break the mould thanks to his fleet-footed attacking abilities.
“I did the 100 metres and funnily
enough, despite my height, I also did the short hurdles and participated at the South African schools championships,” Kolbe said.
“I decided to focus on rugby when the hurdles outgrew me, and at the end of the day I made peace with it.
“We may have chosen different routes but we chose the paths we believed we can achieve in.”
– The Sunday Independent