Despite Toulouse’s struggles in the Top 14, Cheslin Kolbe has still managed to stand out as the best overseas-based back in the 2019-20 season.
Before we look at Kolbe, there needs to be a few honourable mentions to other South Africans who have starred in their respective overseas leagues.
In the English Premiership, Cobus Reinach has continued his try-scoring form as he currently sits on five for the season, making him the top try scoring South African in the tournament this season. The scrumhalf has helped the Northampton Saints stay on track for a place in the playoffs as they were in fourth place before the break in the season due to the Covid-19 virus.
Meanwhile, Robert du Preez has settled in well with the Sale Sharks after making the move from the Durban-based Sharks. The flyhalf is currently on 116 points, making him the third-highest points scorer this season.
In the Pro14, two Scotland-based backs have caught the eye. Firstly, Duhan van der Merwe has been in incredible form for Edinburgh and can count himself unlucky not be named the best overseas back so far.
The wing has scored seven tries in 12 games this season and currently leads the tournament stats in terms of clean breaks (27), defenders beaten (61) and metres gained (765). Van der Merwe is set to qualify to play for Scotland by the time they toured South Africa in July.
Kyle Steyn has already made his Scotland debut and justifiably so. Steyn came off the bench in a 12-minute cameo during Scotland’s Six Nations win over France. The 26-year-old has been excellent for the Glasgow Warriors this season, shifting between outside centre and wing comfortable for his team.
Returning to Kolbe, after taking a short break after winning the World Cup, the Springbok picked up where he left off in France, slotting in seamlessly despite not being a part of Toulouse’s pre-season.
Toulouse, have, admittedly struggled this season. After 17 games, the defending champions find themselves in seventh place, 21 points behind log leaders Bordeaux. This is no fault of Kolbe, who has continued to show why he is considered one of the world’s best players.
The 26-year-old has had to demonstrate his adaptability this season, shifting between wing and fullback. He even displayed his array of skills when he started at flyhalf for the first time in the recent game against Racing 92, which Toulouse would narrowly lose despite Kolbe’s touchline conversion and 45m penalty
If the Top 14 season is to resume this year, Kolbe could help his side into the playoffs, which would give them hope of defending their title.
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