Kolbe has his thinking scrum cap on

Cheslin Kolbe and Handre Pollard will be looking to apply the attacking approach of new assistant coach Tony Brown against Ireland this weekend. | BackpagePix

Cheslin Kolbe and Handre Pollard will be looking to apply the attacking approach of new assistant coach Tony Brown against Ireland this weekend. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 5, 2024


IT has become an iconic sight – with scrum caps obscuring their features, Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse stepping this way, then that way to evade the attentions of a defender, leaving them in their dust, the only way to identify them the proud numbers on their backs.

Add the recently capped Edwill van der Merwe to that shrouded duo, and the confusion is real. So, it was with a chuckle earlier this week that Kolbe laughed off any notion of Makazole Mapimpi joining their disguised number.

“Nah, I don’t think he will wear one,” the 30-year-old snickered. “He is experienced and he is a special player but I don’t think we will ever get that right.”

Cheslin Kolbe lifts the Webb Ellis Cup last year. The Boks’ only loss in the Rugby World Cup 2023 was against Ireland. | BackpagePix

For the record, on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld against Ireland (kick-off 5.05pm), Kolbe will be wearing the No 14 jersey, Arendse 11.

Along with the precocious Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu on the bench, and the mercurial Willie le Roux marshalling them from fullback, they could form a potent back-three combination. It is well-documented the wily skills of Kolbe and Arendse, while Le Roux is arguably one of the best distributors in world rugby.

Unlocking those talents to their full potential has fallen on new assistant coach Tony Brown, and Kolbe revealed that the New Zealander has brought a different dynamic to the team.

Said Kolbe: “The way he sees the game, the way he thinks about the game, it is exciting for us as a group, especially the outside-backs.

“We need to make sure that we do what we have trained for throughout the week and whenever there are opportunities for us on the outside, just capitalise on that and make sure that we keep going forward.”

Earlier this week, Brown explained what he expects from the Boks. Handre Pollard was singled out during his briefing, with the Kiwi hoping to unlock the flyhalf’s attacking prowess, as exhibited during his Under-20 playing days.

Pollard then also shared Kolbe’s sentiment in response, regarding Brown.

“I really enjoy Tony,” said the 30-year old No 10.

“He has been a real breath of fresh air for us. We were very privileged to have Felix (Jones) with us in the past. Tony just thinks about the game differently. He has experience all over the world.

“We’ve enjoyed him a lot since he has come in. If that gets us going at the line a little bit more and playing a bit more on the gain line, that’ll be great.”

Meanwhile, Kolbe returns to the matchday 23 having just rehabilitated from a knee injury and was confident that he has recuperated more than enough to bring out his trademark adroitness.

“I have been working hard with the conditioning team and I am confident and I am happy to be back,” he said curtly.

Kolbe was also a part of the team that lost to the Irish during the World Cup group stages last year. Arendse was on the other wing, too, during that 13-8 loss, with Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende the centre pairing.

The backline for this weekend, however, will be without Damian Willemse and Faf de Klerk due to injury, and who have been replaced by the aforementioned Le Roux and Grant Williams. Manie Libbok, who missed crucial kicks at goal during the September match, has been swopped out for the surety of Pollard.

Upon reflection, Kolbe admitted that the Boks were careless during that defeat, even though he recorded the only try – his career 13th score – for the national team in that match.

“We weren’t clinical at times to take our opportunities,” he said.

“At Test level you have to capitalise and make the most out of it. Looking back at it, there were a lot of learnings. It also brought us back down to earth during the World Cup. That is done.

“Our focus is far away from that,” he continued. “We can still learn from the mistakes but it is a new team and there are a lot of exciting guys getting an opportunity. We have to be clinical. We have to bring out our experience and X-factor.”

Kolbe has never beaten the Irish, and although the Boks have insisted across the board that they are not seeking revenge for three consecutive defeats to the Emerald Isle, there is no doubt he and his teammates will seek to get that particular losing streak rectified this weekend.

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