Should Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe sign for a South African team or stay overseas?

The Bulls certainly have the deep pockets of Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert to sign a world-class Springbok like Cheslin Kolbe. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

The Bulls certainly have the deep pockets of Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert to sign a world-class Springbok like Cheslin Kolbe. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Jun 2, 2023


Cape Town – Imagine a back-three of Cheslin Kolbe, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse…

Not only is that a real possibility for the Springboks some time this year ahead of the Rugby World Cup, but it could even happen at franchise level next season.

While Stormers coach John Dobson has already said that it is unlikely that Kolbe – who was virtually forced to leave Toulon last week – will return to the Cape side as they are still awaiting an equity deal to be finalised, the Bulls certainly have the deep pockets of Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert to sign a world-class Springbok.

It is a long shot that Kolbe could swap the south of France for Pretoria, but Bulls director of rugby Jake White didn’t directly rule out a bid for the Bok speedster when asked about him at a press conference this week ahead of Friday’s Currie Cup game against the Griffons.

There have been reports that the salary cap for the South African URC teams will be increased from R71 million to R85m for next season – and that four marquee players would fall outside the cap.

But while White said such a decision has not been made as yet, he didn’t answer directly when asked if the Bulls would try to sign Kolbe as a marquee player.

“I’m going to answer it by saying that I am not quite sure what they have decided (about increasing the salary cap). I know they had some sort of idea, and then there was another discussion about moving it to something else. At this point in time, I don’t get involved in how much we are going to spend and the number of players we’re allowed, (and) how many marquee players,” the former Bok coach said.

“Once it’s all finalised, I trust my CEO (Edgar Rathbone) and the board to make those decisions of how much we can put in.

“What I will tell you is that we have owners and board members that really want to do well, and they understand that it comes at a cost – and they are willing to back that vision with whatever they need to back it with.

“That’s as fortunate as I can be as a coach: that I know I have a board and owners that really want the Bulls to be a powerhouse team. And whatever the framework, rules or regulations are, we will stay within those regulations and see whether we can build a team that will be powerful over the next couple of years.”

Asked again if that means Kolbe would be approached by the Bulls or not, White just gave a broad smile without answering…

He would dream of a back-three of Kolbe, Moodie and Arendse, who can all inter-change between fullback and wing as well, and such a trio would give the Bulls real teeth on attack and defence in the URC and Champions Cup next season.

But, should he join a South African franchise at all? Kolbe is a celebrated rugby player who has won the Rugby World Cup, the Champions Cup and two French Top 14 titles with Toulouse, the Challenge Cup just recently with Toulon, a Currie Cup with Western Province and even an Olympic bronze medal with the Blitzboks in 2016.

He is a global superstar who is probably weighing up several offers from clubs around the world, but was keen to see out the final year of his contract with Toulon, as he has been in France since 2017 and has said previously that his family are well settled in the country and were hoping to qualify for French passports.

That is why he shed some tears after starring at fullback for Toulon in the Challenge Cup final against Glasgow in Dublin, where he was the Man of the Match.

“An emotional couple of weeks it has been for me and my family,” Kolbe posted on his Instagram account.

“Some people might not understand, neither do I, but as I was told ‘it’s a business’. To put my feelings aside.

“Despite it all, I have tried my best. Sometimes our plans don’t always align with God’s plans for us.

“I just want to thank each and everyone whom I have crossed paths with, the supporters, my teammates and all staff for everything.

“It’s not easy for me to say goodbye, but such is life.

“France has been our home for six years, three kids later, and it will always be home for us.

“Hopefully this is not goodbye, but see you soon. Thank you once again, I had hoped for a better ending.”

Of course, a move back to South Africa would mean that he is closer to his parents and extended family, while he would also be better managed in terms of his workload to ensure that he is in optimum shape for the Springboks.

Injuries played a part in the Toulon exit – with the most recent issue being an ankle sprain that kept the 29-year-old out for a month.

Kolbe also missed the Boks’ final Test of 2022 against England after picking up a thigh injury against Italy – having sustained a broken jaw against Wales in July, which kept him out of the Rugby Championship.

But he is 100 percent fit at the moment, and will be a key member of the Boks’ World Cup title defence in France.

His club future is still in the air, with French media having reported over the last few months that a number of Japanese clubs are hoping to sign Kolbe.

He would earn seriously big bucks in the Far East, but knowing how competitive the Kraaifontein product is, Kolbe would be better off joining a different French club…


IOL Sport