From Kraaifontein, via an athletics scholarship to Brackenfell High School, Western Province, Blitzbokke and Stormers honours, Cheslin Kolbe’s route to higher honours has not been via the conventional big rugby schools and academies. But then, Cheslin Kolbe – earmarked for higher honours by every pundit with a heartbeat and a yen for running rugby – isn’t really a conventional rugby player.
Let’s face it, we’re a nation of rugby bruisers. Brutally efficient, we win test matches (and the odd World Cup) on a power game. We’re not that well known for the subtlety of our attack.
A player like Kolbe, offers something different. Watching him field a high ball deep in his team’s own half, is pretty magical. He sums up the approaching wall of defenders as if he has all the time in the world then finds an invisible gap by jinking or throwing a dummy better than a petulant toddler. And then he is off. The cover defence scrambles, but just as you think he might get hauled in, Kolbe flicks some internal switch and turns on the after-burners. Leaving defenders in his wake like Roadrunner with Wily Coyote.
Like Breyton Paulse, Brent Russel, Gio Aplon and Willie le Roux before him, Kolbe will have to face size-ist detractors. But with a fearless attitude on defense and a lethal attacking instinct that you cannot coach, we’re backing him to be a future great of the game. And it seems the rest of SA is too as he has just graduated to finally becoming a Springbok after 5 hard years of work.
We chatted to him in 2010 ago and he gave us this advice:
My dad has always been a big influence. He had this saying that, “Off days are when you put in the hard work.” Most people want to relax, but you need to use each and everyday to put in hard work. When everyone else is relaxing I train. I only take time off when I’m injured. It’ll pay off at the end of the day. Not after two weeks, it might take years, but it’ll pay off. There are no shortcuts in life.
Turns out he was right and the hard work has paid off. Congrats Kolbe!