CAPE TOWN – Cheslin Kolbe should surely have stepped his way onto Rassie Erasmus’ radar.
The six-cap Springbok has been massive for Toulouse this season, and another fire performance at the weekend again showed his class. Kolbe helped ignite the French team’s hopes of a first Top 14 title since 2012 with a try that - regardless of how good it was - was just another display of his attacking potency.
Toulouse secured a 20-6 victory over La Rochelle in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Starting at fullback instead of on the wing, Kolbe put on show the ridiculous array of skills that have helped him put together a stunning season.
His try - which saw him humiliate three defenders before reaching over in the right-hand corner - might have made for a good YouTube video, but Kolbe’s form deserves more than some views and social media raves. His form has done more than enough to justify that call from the Bok coach. And if his productions with Toulouse haven’t yet convinced Erasmus, it sure should have.
While the back row has become a nightmare situation for the Stormers and, by extension, the Boks, as injuries have hit them hard (the Lions’ Warren Whiteley is also on the repairs list), the back three - fullback in particular - presents a number of options for Erasmus.
Last year, Erasmus backed Willie le Roux, S’bu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi to start in the first Test against England. Injuries, however, stepped in and Erasmus had to tweak his selections.
Curwin Bosch, Warrick Gelant and Damian Willemse all got a run at fullback, while Travis Ismaiel, Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi and Jesse Kriel did duty on the wing.
Bosch has also found himself at fullback this season thanks to Robert du Preez Senior’s ridiculous and stubborn refusal to drop his out-of-form son and hand the flyhalf jersey to Bosch. When he did get his much-deserved chances in the general’s position, Bosch looked in fine form. His massive boot also strengthens his rugby resume.
Le Roux and Willemse appear definites for the World Cup squad. Willemse - who has been ruled out for the remainder of the Super Rugby season - has been the Stormers’ first-choice fullback this season.
So options there sure are.
And as teams have been cruelly reminded in 2019 - injuries are an unwelcome, yet frequent visitor. It can happen at any time.
In saying that, though, I’m not implying that Erasmus should just keep Kolbe in mind in case things go wrong and injury strikes. He’s worth way more than that, he’s proven it more times than I care to recall. At the very least, I hope Kolbe is in Erasmus’ thinking.
He’s been on fire. He’s been instrumental in Toulouse’s road to the final. He’s been consistently doing what Kolbe does best. And, to top it all off, he’s also added some solid defence to his extraordinary attacking package.
So, when Toulouse - 19-time league winners - take on Clermont in the Top 14 final on Saturday, let’s hope Erasmus watches on with interest.
After all, Cheslin Kolbe’s done enough to catch and grip the interest of the rest rugby world with his balling abilities.
Week in and week out.@WynonaLouw