New Toulon signing Cheslin Kolbe praises Toulouse: ‘Thank you for giving me the freedom and joy to play at my best’
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CAPE TOWN – Cheslin Kolbe paid tribute to Toulouse for “shaping me into the player and person I am today” after announcing his move to fellow French giants Toulon on Friday.
The Springbok star was unveiled by Toulon after a week of speculation in the French media, with the South African reportedly being bought out of his current Toulouse contract – which still had two years to run – for 1.8 million Euros, while he is expected to earn 1 million Euros per year for his three-year deal at Toulon.
The 27-year-old arrived in Brisbane yesterday after travelling from Gqeberha with the Boks ahead of their upcoming Rugby Championship encounters against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
“The time has come for me to say Au Revoir to one of the greatest chapters of all time. I don’t know where to start, because I never expected the end to come so soon. I hope you understand my decision to move on to Toulon was not easy. I want to express the greatest gratitude to the entire Toulouse community,” Kolbe said in a statement on his social media channels.
“I will forever be grateful for everything I have learnt and the memories made stretch far beyond the rugby field. I would like to thank Stade Toulousain for the opportunity to be a part of the legacy and making history.
“Thank you for your impact on my career, and your role in shaping me into the player and person I am today.
“Thank you for believing in me and giving me the freedom and joy to play at my best. I have made so many special and incredible memories, friends and ultimately friends that became family.
“The ST brotherhood I will forever cherish. I love you my brothers and I will miss you the most!”
The belief that Kolbe speaks about is what resulted in him becoming a Bok stalwart, after his special evasive skills wasn’t used to full effect at the Stormers and Western Province.
His tries in the 2019 World Cup final and the British and Irish Lions series underlined his value as a true game-breaker who can conjure up something out of nothing.
Now he is getting ready for a new challenge with Toulon, having won the French Top 14 title and European Champions Cup titles with Toulouse last season.
He is only likely to arrive at the Stade Mayol in December due to his Bok Test commitments.
“Thank you for accepting me from the start with the warmest welcome. Thank you for making Toulouse feel like our home since day one. Thank you for the kindness, love and support not only shown to me as a player, but off the field too, as well as to my family,” Kolbe told the Toulouse fans.
“Thank you for the level of respect you give, and I am always grateful and honoured to experience and receive it. I will continue to respect you.
“I will surely miss your energy, the ‘KOLBE’ chants, the most incredible atmosphere running out onto Stade Ernest Wallon, your support at our training sessions and all your tributes and messages in the postbox and social media. It never goes unnoticed.
“We became champions together, made history together and it was surely one of the biggest highlights of my career and life.
“It was an absolute honour to wear the ST jersey every single time. I will forever hold the Stade Toulousain legacy and incredible memories close to my heart. I have lived my dream, and it is such a privilege.
“But for now, I look forward to a new chapter and to seize the opportunity ahead, and I hope to continue to pave the way for many other ‘Cheslin Kolbes’ to come.”