CAPE TOWN - In sport, as in all other aspects of life, everyone deserves a second chance.
Allister Coetzee got his second chance to coach the Springboks and right the wrongs of 2016 when he survived axing last December. Certain Bok players got a whole year filled with second, third and seventh chances after a string of lacklustre performances in the Springbok jersey. And then you also get those people in other fields who have been as incompetent in their second tenure as they were in their first, yet they’re still there. I guess that’s just the way things are.
But when you look at Cheslin Kolbe well, there’s a guy who never even got a chance to begin with. No rugby fan needs a picture-like description of what Kolbe can do with a rugby ball. He showed his talent and skill in the Cape. And that talent and skill also showed what a pity it is that he hasn’t been granted a Bok chance.
And when he joined French side Toulouse in August this year, Kolbe immediately made an impact. That try-line radar was evident immediately, and he stepped his way into local hearts almost instantly. He was a fan favourite at Newlands, and he’s already one over there as well.
South African rugby’s fascination with size has led to their detriment many times, but the absence of Kolbe on South African fields is perhaps the realest reminder of just how ridiculous that obsession is. And he is versatile too, which makes his wasted talent in SA even worse.
Primarily used as a certain type of fullback under Coetzee, Kolbe spent more time on the wing under Robbie Fleck at the Stormers. And he’s produced brilliant outings with either number on his back.
And again, just think back to the Boks’ campaigns under Coetzee. He experimented with almost every possible option at No 15 - from Willie le Roux to Johan Goosen, from Pat Lambie to Jesse Kriel and eventually Andries Coetzee. Everyone got a chance. Everyone but Kolbe.
Rewind to last season, when Kolbe was named in the Bok squad for the end-of-year tour opener against the Barbarians and didn’t even make the matchday 23. Now if a player like that doesn’t even get a shot in a match against the Baa-Baas (one that ended in a shocking draw), then I don’t blame Kolbe for feeling enough is enough and looking for pastures where size doesn’t determine worth. What’s done is done. And hopefully, in future, the eye of the Bok opens its mind to Kolbe’s worth.
He’s shining in Europe, and he fully deserves it. And if his performances abroad don’t serve as the ultimate wake-up call to SA rugby, then I don’t know what will.