An epic battle awaits between the Glasgow Warriors and Toulon in Friday’s Challenge Cup final, pitting the tactical genius of Franco Smith against the flair of Cheslin Kolbe.
As the Warriors prepare for their historic opportunity to claim Scotland’s first European Cup title at the Aviva Stadium, they must first face the formidable challenge posed by one of the giants of French Top 14 rugby.
Led by the remarkable Smith in his debut season as coach, Glasgow have exceeded expectations, reaching the EPCR showpiece in Dublin after a stellar run. However, their tactical prowess will be put to the test against a Toulon side renowned for unleashing chaos on the field.
Kolbe needs no introduction, as his mere presence with the ball evokes visions of magic unfolding on the pitch. With lightning-fast sidesteps and effortless swerves, the Springbok speedster leaves defenders flat-footed and international players humbled by his extraordinary talent.
But Kolbe is not alone in his ability to disrupt the opposition’s plans; Toulon boasts a roster of players capable of instigating chaos, intent on crushing Smith’s dreams and thwarting a Scottish miracle.
Glasgow attack coach Nigel Carolan has duly cautioned the Scots about the French’s penchant for embracing a more unstructured style of play. He emphasises that while order triumphs over chaos, the Warriors’ style is far from conservative. Their approach is founded on ambition, bravery, and a deep desire to play an expansive brand of rugby.
It is this style of play that has propelled them to the final, and they intend to maintain their attacking mindset without retreating into their shells. The Warriors seek to create a thrilling spectacle, relying on their trademark ambition to secure victory.
With both teams possessing the ability to shred defenses and seize momentum, this final has the potential to be legendary. Carolan hopes his players embrace the moment, acknowledging the distractions and heightened attention that come with the occasion.
“We are very process-driven, we have plans for most parts of our game. It’s just about thinking ‘what’s the next job?’ and try to focus on that moment. If you get caught up in what’s going on around you then you lose focus,” he said.
“That’s exactly what we want in the final, not to go into our shells. We want to be ambitious, we want to play the brand of rugby that has actually got us to this final, and hopefully that will get us on the right side of the scoreline.”
Smith’s impressive impact in his inaugural stint with the Warriors and the team’s relentless dedication have brought them to this pivotal juncture.
However, the South African will be acutely aware that the mercurial brilliance of players like Kolbe can swiftly alter the course of the game, underscoring the need for unwavering focus and strategic acumen.
Photo: Alexandre Dimou/ Getty Images, Inpho/Craig Watson