Cheslin Kolbe has revealed the unexpected manner in which he was informed by Rassie Erasmus that he would be making his Test debut, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In an exclusive interview with the latest SA Rugby magazine, Kolbe opened up about the whirlwind start to his Springbok career after making his first international appearance against the Wallabies less than two years ago.
The talented wing’s first call-up to the Springboks came before the Australasian leg of the 2018 Rugby Championship, and caught many by surprise, including Kolbe himself.
‘Literally my first proper face-to-face chat with coach Rassie was at the hotel reception; I was getting the cable ties cut off my luggage, and he’d just come out of a meeting.
‘He welcomed me to the team, asked me how I was feeling and if there were any injury worries. I told him, “Thanks for the opportunity and that I’m 100% fine”. He replied to say if that’s the case I’ll be on the bench for the next game. I stood there and could barely believe it, and was wondering is this how things happen here with such an open chat,’ Kolbe laughs.
A Test debut off the bench duly followed, but the real heroics would come a week later when he scored a stunning intercept try in the Springboks’ famous two-point win over the All Blacks in Wellington.
And so began Kolbe’s so-called ‘love affair’ of playing against the All Blacks. In the Springboks’ final 2018 Rugby Championship Test, he would score another memorable try in a narrow defeat. The next time he lined up against the Boks’ fierce rivals, it would be his breakaway and perfectly-weighted chip kick that set up a try for Herschel Jantjies to draw the game.
‘I just wanted to prove myself and show what I could contribute,’ the dynamic wing reflects. ‘Of course, the big dream was to be part of the World Cup squad, but I knew I had to be consistent, and that was the big focus for me.
‘After receiving the opportunity with the Boks, I knew it was up to me to make the best out of it, and I just wanted to ensure I would never let my teammates down and earn their respect.
‘Thankfully I feel I have been able to produce some of the best rugby of my career up to this point, and also just have a lot of fun out there. It’s been such a rewarding and humbling experience with the Springboks,’ he adds.
‘The respect within the group is phenomenal, there are no egos, and it’s just made such a happy environment and one you want to be part of.’
*The full feature with Kolbe can be found in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale.