Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: Kolbe steps past the competition
AS part of The Glory of '95 series, three of IOL Sport's rugby writers decided to pick their ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV. Today we look at the right wing position.
Candidates: James Small (1995), JP Pietersen (2007), Cheslin Kolbe (2019)
One tournament and four matches in 2019 were enough for me when it comes to picking Cheslin Kolbe in the No 14 jersey. Many observers may have opted for JP Pietersen – who won a gold medal at 20 in 2007, and went on to play in two more events – while James Small was an iconic figure from 1995.
But the things that Kolbe did in Japan last year were simply irresistible.
He started with a bang in the first match against the All Blacks, where he kept the three-time world champions busy with a number of thrilling runs.
He also tackled his heart out, and nearly scored a try until he was brilliantly brought down by Richie Mo’unga.
He returned to the starting team against Italy – having come off the bench in the Namibia game – and finally got on to the scoresheet with a double. Kolbe was his usual devastating self, stepping past defenders, taking high balls and finishing smartly in a Man-of-the-Match performance.
But close to the end, he sustained an ankle injury that ruled him out of the last pool match against Canada, as well as the quarter-final against Japan.
Kolbe managed to recover in time for the semi-final against Wales, which was one of the hardest grinds ever for the Boks.
Coach Rassie Erasmus insisted that his team stick to conservative tactics to outlast the tough Welsh, and they very nearly came up short until a late Handre Pollard penalty secured a 19-16 win.
The stage was set for the forwards to lead the charge again in the final against England, and they did that in superb fashion. But Kolbe and his fellow backs also made good use of the front-foot possession, with Makazole Mapimpi scoring the first Bok try in a final.Then came Kolbe’s unforgettable moment, as he skipped past Joe Marler and left England captain Owen Farrell sprawled on the turf to clinch a third title.
South Africa’ best right wing, in terms of Rugby World Cup campaigns, is problematic in that no player completely nails down the position, in my opinion.
I sentimentally look to James Small in that he wore his heart on his sleeve and totally committed himself to his team and country in the bid to halt the Jonah Lomu express in 1995.
In 1999, I thought Deon Kayser was exceptional in adapting to the No 14 jersey but, let’s be clear, he was a centre playing at wing under Nick Mallett, a coach that had lost the plot ahead of that World Cup.
In 2003, Ashwin Willemse was a stand-out Bok in a forgettable era for the Boks under Rudolf Straueli, and then in the next three World Cups JP Pietersen was the right wing, but in my opinion he was a lazy player that was fortunate to have had the honours that came his way.
And that brings us to Cheslin Kolbe, who memorably rounded England captain Owen Farrell in last year’s final for the match-clinching score.
So who is South Africa’s best No 14 in the Rugby World Cups? To me it is down to Small and Kolbe, and while I will never forget Small’s courage in marking Jonah Lomu in the ’95 final, Kolbe’s try in 2019, and his all round endeavour in that tournament, wins the day.
Mike's pick: Cheslin Kolbe
JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN
|Another hugely difficult choice to have to make because all three men wore the No 14 on their back with pride and dedication. Each man can tick off a number of highs during their time on the right wing: the way Small dealt with Jonah Lomu in the ’95 final, Pietersen’s tackles in the 2007 tournament and Kolbe’s heroics throughout the showpiece in Japan last year.|
While I loved Small’s attitude and spirit and Pietersen’s all-round strength and consistency, on this occasion I’m going to go with the diminutive Kolbe.
The smallest man in the Bok backline has been nothing short of brilliant since getting picked two years ago. Kolbe hasn’t had a bad game in the green and gold and proved time and again size means absolutely nothing if your heart is big and you’re prepared to work hard.
The 26-year-old - who was considered too small for Test rugby by the likes of Bok coaches Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee, was outstanding in every department at the World Cup in Japan and scored a superb try in the final to help the Boks across the line.
He may only have featured in 14 Tests, but at 26 he still has plenty of time - and matches - ahead of him and he’s sure to become one of the greats of Bok rugby.
Jacques' choice: Cheslin Kolbe
Cheslin Kolbe is the second name on our Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV team sheet.
Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Cheslin Kolbe ...