WATCH: Siya Kolisi hopes Cheslin Kolbe gets a lot of space at fullback

Published Nov 5, 2022


Cape Town – Will Cheslin Kolbe be instructed to just kick everything away, or will he be allowed to unleash his immense skill-set on Ireland on Saturday night?

That is the question Springbok supporters may be grappling with after the hot-stepper was finally chosen at fullback this week by coach Jacques Nienaber for the Aviva Stadium showdown (7.30pm SA time kickoff).

Kolbe has featured at No 15 for the Stormers and French clubs Toulouse and Toulon in the past, but has earned all 20 Bok Test caps at right wing.

His electric pace and side-stepping ability makes him a nightmare for defenders, as he showcased during the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and last year’s British and Irish Lions series.

But the hope is that Kolbe – who is making his return to the Bok team after sustaining a broken jaw against Wales in July – will get much more possession at fullback than he normally does at wing, where he has often had to just chase box-kicks all day instead getting the ball in his hands to weave his magic.

Captain Siya Kolisi – who is also a close personal friend and spent time with Kolbe on the latter’s 29th birthday in Toulon last week – wants to see that happen too in Dublin tonight.

“I’m very excited to see Chessie get an opportunity at fullback. We’ve seen what he can do in little space – hopefully he gets a lot of space,” the Bok No 6 said on Friday.

“Playing fullback internationally is a different story, because you are not going to… A guy like Willie (le Roux), the way he manages it…

“A lot of the things we don’t see, like those long passes for Mapimpi and Cheslin and they get the tries. He is not as fast as everybody else, but the work that he does (is great).

“I’m looking forward to Chessie (at fullback) because I know he is good under the high ball – he’s shown that at wing – and we want to create as much opportunity as we can as a team for him, but I am sure he will handle himself well. He will take his opportunities that are in front of him.”

Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick echoed Kolisi’s sentiments. “It’s good to have him back. He’s a world-class player, and very skilful. He may be small in size, but he’s got a big heart – we all know what he can do.

“Giving him an opportunity at fullback… the plan was always there to have him as a back-up to Willie, and we still have Willie on the bench as well – he has done a job for us before.

“I’m excited to see what Cheslin will also do from the back, especially if you look at the balance that we’ve got in the outside backs. Another guy that a lot of people are calling ‘Copy and Paste’, Kurt-Lee Arendse… Mapimps, massive experience there with him and Chessie.

“We’ve got a good balance at the back, and then we’ve got Willie on the bench if anything happens in terms of injuries.

“We know (Ireland captain Johnny) Sexton is very experienced, but we think Cheslin Kolbe will be able to do the job for us at the back.”