Springboks’ Tony Brown hails Cheslin Kolbe — the patron saint of chasing lost causes

Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe scores a try against Ireland after chasing a Handre Pollard penalty kick. Photo: Marco Longari/AFP

Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe scores a try against Ireland after chasing a Handre Pollard penalty kick. Photo: Marco Longari/AFP

Published Jul 8, 2024


With that crucial charge down in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France still fresh in he minds of South Africans, Cheslin Kolbe produced another match-winning moment for the Springboks against Ireland.

In that quarter-final, Kolbe charged down France fullback Thomas Ramos’ attempted conversion. This ultimately helped the Springboks to win the match by one point on their way to a fourth Rugby World Cup title.

With the Test match at Loftus Versfeld between South Africa and Ireland still very much in the balance in the second half, Kolbe chased after a second-half penalty kicked to the right touchline. Ireland wing James Lowe kept the ball in play, but Kolbe was first to pounce on the loose ball, kicking it through before scoring.

Kolbe doesn’t seem to take anything for granted on a rugby field and chases those lost causes other players would simply ignore. It’s why he has become such an important player in the Springboks’ set-up. Cheslin Kolbe — the patron saint of chasing lost causes.

“I’ve seen James Lowe do so many amazing things on a rugby field, around keeping the ball in play and he actually created a try by keeping a ball in play on the other side,” said Brown.

“I’ve seen Cheslin chase, commit to the chase and win games of rugby through his chase. So for me it was two brilliant bits of rugby that ended up with Cheslin scoring, because maybe the Irish players didn’t back up Lowe.

“Both Cheslin and Kurt-Lee [Arendse] have this amazing ability to beat players and out-work players. They win games of rugby through their effort.”

Arendse scored the Springboks’ first try against the Irish in Pretoria, brilliantly rounding off a team move that had South Africans jumping off their chairs as early as two minutes into the fixture.

New attack coach Brown’s influence was there for all to see, as the Springboks attacked Ireland with a lot more width than they would have expected from a South African team.

Brown has been brought in to evolve the Springboks game plan, adding an accurate attacking element to the team’s traditional forward and set-piece strength.

The Springboks used big bruisers Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit in the wide channels to punch holes, while also offloading to the speedsters. Kolisi’s pass under pressure for Arendse’s try showed that Brown is definitely on to something.

However, there were some growing pains, with not everything going quite going right. But there were signs that Brown is definitely adding more strings to the Springboks’ bow.

“The things we’re trying to do on attack ... there was some really good sings, especially in the first half where we created a lot of momentum with our width,” said Brown.

“The boys applied a lot of pressure and scored a nice try early on.”

“With Pieter-Steph and Siya ... they have got an amazing skill set, big players and pretty dynamic with ball in hand.

“It’s around giving them the licence and freedom to do what they do well and the rest of the team complimenting that.”

The Springboks, statistically, kicked a lot less in the first Test, keeping the ball in hand for a lot longer. However, this doesn’t mean that they have forsaken their power game and prowess at set-piece time.

In fact, there more dominance the big guys get upfront, the better their attack will be.

“Our attack only works if our forwards are going well. They need to be able to get gainline for us, they need to be able to carry the ball, pass and clean out,” said Brown.

“In a game of rugby they have got so many demands on them, scrum, maul, defending, cleaning out. Any good attack can’t operate without the forwards dominating their area.

“It’s been nice to keep challenging them to keep moving the ball and hopefully they can get better as we go through the year.”


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