New Vodacom Bulls recruit Gio Aplon believes Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe is ‘only starting to scratch the surface of his potential’.
In the latest SA Rugby magazine, Aplon spoke to JON CARDINELLI about his unexpected move to the Bulls, while also touching on changes that he has seen in the game.
Aplon, who will be 38 this October, said he was thrilled to see smaller players like Kolbe receiving an extensive opportunity to set international rugby alight.
‘Comparisons have been made between Cheslin Kolbe and myself,’ says Aplon, who played alongside the Springbok wing at the Stormers six years ago.
‘If you ask me, I’d say I’m the iPhone 5 and Cheslin is the iPhone 11. There may be similarities, but Cheslin is a significant upgrade. The way he’s playing now, in terms of his confidence and skills … I never got anywhere near that in my prime. What people need to understand about Cheslin is that he’s only 26.
‘He’s achieved so much as a player, winning the World Cup, Rugby Championship and Top 14, but most players only start to peak between the ages of 28 and 30. I’m excited about his future. He’s only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. The best is yet to come.’
Aplon mentioned that he grew up admiring former Springboks such as Breyton Paulse and Brent Russell.
Paulse then took Aplon under his wing when the latter played for the Stormers in 2007. The veteran recognised the challenge facing the gifted youngster, as he had experienced it himself.
However, Paulse also notes the changes that have begun to take place when it comes to this subject.
‘Size is no longer part of the debate,’ he says. ‘Look at the second try scored by the Boks in the World Cup final last year. Cheslin danced around several defenders to score. What’s more, we saw how good players like Cheslin were on defence and in the air at that tournament. What more do you want from an international player?
‘There has always been room for smaller players in a rugby team,’ he says. ‘I’m not saying that the coach should pick 15 small players any more than I’m saying he should pick 15 big players. It all comes down to the ability of the player and how he fits into a gameplan. Some coaches, like Rassie, are showing an appreciation for ability. It would be great if more coaches, especially in South Africa, changed their mindset and looked beyond what they see.
‘These players come into their own on turnover ball. We see New Zealand harnessing that at Test level. The Boks have started to use these players too. The likes of Cheslin and Willie are all lurking, getting ready to make the big play. The Boks are trying to create situations where there will be mismatches, where Cheslin or Makazole Mapimpi will run against a front-row forward for example. Hopefully Gio will get the chance to do the same at the Bulls, as he can be devastating when he has a bit of space.’
*The full feature with Aplon can be found in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images