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Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe back for Toulon's European Challenge Cup final

Toulon's South-African fullback Cheslin Kolbe in action during the French Top14

FILE - Toulon's South-African fullback Cheslin Kolbe in action during the French Top14. Photo: Diarmid Courreges/AFP

Published May 26, 2022


Marseille — South African star Cheslin Kolbe will start on the wing for Toulon in their European challenge Cup final against Lyon on Saturday.

Kolbe, who won last year's Champions Cup with Toulouse before his big-money move to Toulon, has been out of action since an April 20 operation on a broken thumb.

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But the 28-year-old World Cup winner has been deemed fit enough for the evening showdown at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

Kolbe's recall sees Fiji's Rio Olympic sevens gold medallist Jiuta Naqoli Wainiqolo drop to the bench, while in-form Frenchman Gabin Villiere occupies the other wing berth.

Coach Franck Azema said it had been a good week in the build-up to the final in Marseille, where Toulon fans are expected to far outnumber Lyon supporters.

"The infirmary is almost empty, which is good," Azema said, hailing the "spirit and experience" Kolbe brought to the squad.

"He's a competitor, a winner, a fighter."

Kolbe is joined in the Toulon side by fellow South Africans Eben Etzebeth and Cornell Du Preez, the latter having represented Scotland on the international stage.

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Etzebeth played down the punishing playing schedule Toulon currently have as they also scrap to make the play-offs of the Top 14.

"We get managed in training during the week," Etzebeth said. "So we get our necessary down time and get our necessary off days so the guys feel well when they play.

"When you win a couple of games in a row, you just get more energy, so the guys are feeling good. Obviously it's a final, so everyone will be up for it."

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Etzebeth added: "The last 10-12 weeks we've been in a final every weekend in the Top 14.

"Every weekend it's like, if we don't win the match, we won't be able to make the top six.

"We don't want to change too much tomorrow. We want to focus on the basics and do the basics well: scrumming, lineouts, mauling and the kicking game.

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"We know what they do well," he said. "It's going to be a like a Test match tomorrow between the two pack of forwards.

"It's going to be a great match-up, it's going to be a good contest and it's going to be finals rugby. It might be won in the last minute by a drop-goal or penalty -- hopefully we're on the winning side!"

Former Samoa and New Zealand under-20 representative Jordan Taufua skippers Lyon after himself making a comeback from a calf injury that saw the No 8 sidelined for the last month.

"I'm feeling pretty good, my body's very well rested," Taufua said Thursday. "I'm lucky enough to be ready for Marseille.

"We're confident in our forwards to stand up to Toulon's forwards. They're a physical pack, but so are we.

"It'll defintely be two dominant forward packs going at each other and it's going to be whoever wins that contact zone" that will win the game, said Taufua.

Teams (15-1)


Toby Arnold; Josua Tuisova, Pierre-Louis Barassi, Charlie Ngatai, Davit Niniashvili; Leo Berdeu, Baptiste Couilloud; Jordan Taufua (capt), Patrick Sobela, Dylan Cretin; Romain Taofifenua, Joel Kpoku; Demba Bamba, Guillaume Marchand, Sebastien Taofifenua

Replacements: Mickael Ivaldi, Hamza Kaabeche, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Felix Lambey, Loann Goujon, Jean-Marc Doussain, Colby Fainga'a, Xavier Mignot


Aymeric Luc; Cheslin Kolbe, Julien Heriteau, Duncan Paia'aua, Gabin Villiere; Louis Carbonel, Baptiste Serin; Sergio Parisse, Charles Ollivon (capt), Cornell Du Preez; Brian Alainu'uese, Eben Etzebeth; Beka Gigashvili, Christopher Tolofua, Jean Baptiste Gros

Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Bruce Devaux, Emerick Setiano, Swan Rebbadj, Mathieu Smaili, Julien Blanc, Jiuta Naqoli Wainiqolo, Facundo Isa

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)