CAPE TOWN – It’s taken the better part of five years, but finally the time has arrived – Cheslin Kolbe is about to become a Springbok.
The 24-year-old flyer from Kraaifontein has been named on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane, and it’s not a moment too soon.
Kolbe, overlooked by previous coaches Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee, had to leave the Stormers for Toulouse in France to prove his worth to current Bok mentor Rassie Erasmus, and now he has got his big break.
He surely won’t forget being called up by Coetzee for the 2016 end-of-year tour game against the Barbarians – only to be left out of the match-23 and sent home without playing.
That probably made up Kolbe’s mind to go overseas, and perhaps try to make the French team in years to come.
But now he’s been given a chance by Erasmus, and he expressed his excitement on Twitter on Thursday.
“Eyes on the prize. Such a great experience being part of the Springbok family. Thank you for all the love and support. #excitingtimesahead #godsplan” Kolbe tweeted.
Erasmus told SuperSport TV in an interview on Thursday that he saw Kolbe as a fullback, despite him playing wing mainly for Toulouse.
“The main thing is that he is an out-and-out 15, although he’s only 24, 25 years old. He is a guy who can play there and can cover wing as well. I’ve always felt that he has the potential and ability to be a wonderful Test 15 – like I thought Gio Aplon might’ve been,” Erasmus said.
“Certainly a very confident player at this stage – if you look at him slotting in and understanding the plays and things we want to do, I’m very excited about him.”
Earlier in the week, assistant coach Matt Proudfoot, who also knows Kolbe well from his Stormers days, said that he deserved his Bok chance due to his form for Toulouse.
“He is the type of player who can really create something out of nothing.”
Kolbe – who is a cousin of star athlete Wayde van Niekerk – could just be that lethal strike-runner from the back the Boks need, considering that Erasmus has chosen to use Willie le Roux in a playmaker role up to now as a “second flyhalf”.
But it all depends on the type of game plan that will be employed. While the Boks were much more attacking against Argentina in Durban, they tried to hit up the middle in the defeat in Mendoza a week later.
Considering the selection of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf and Pieter-Steph du Toit at flank, though, it appears as if Erasmus may go back to the Kings Park template.
Hopefully Kolbe will get enough game time in the second half to make a proper impact.