Kurt-Lee Arendse ticks all the right boxes to replace the injured Cheslin Kolbe for the Springboks and make the green and gold No 14 jumper his own, writes DEVIN HERMANUS.
Kolbe appeared to have fractured his jaw in the Boks’ series-clinching victory over Wales in Cape Town on Saturday and is likely to miss a large chunk of the Rugby Championship – at the very least the opening two Tests against the All Blacks in Nelspruit on 6 August, and at Ellis Park one week later.
It’s a fresh injury blow for the 28-year-old, who was sidelined for most of the 2021 Rugby Championship and end-of-year tour, and broke his thumb in April to miss several weeks of action for French Top 14 side Toulon.
His latest setback leaves Makazole Mapimpi as the only out-and-out wing in the current Bok squad.
Jesse Kriel started the Boks’ three November Tests last year at right wing but he featured at outside centre against Wales in Bloemfontein, and the constant chopping and changing of positions doesn’t benefit him or the national team.
Aphelele Fassi is another option in the wide channels, only the retreaded fullback delivered a forgettable performance on the left wing at Free State Stadium and looks a shadow of the Test player who scored two tries in his first two international appearances.
However, Arendse – one of six players to make their Bok debuts in Bloem – put in an heroic defensive shift for 80 minutes as Wales stunned the world champions for a first win in the Republic.
Like Kolbe, the versatile Arendse represented the Blitzboks before he starred in the recent Vodacom United Rugby Championship for the Vodacom Bulls.
His electrifying side-stepping and acceleration bamboozled defenders in the URC and Bulls boss Jake White likened the fleet-footed fullback to England’s 2003 World Cup winner, Jason Robinson.
Dangerous in broken play, Arendse is just as assured in the air as the diminutive Kolbe, whose bravery and determination under the high ball helps make him a crucial attacking weapon to the Boks’ territorial kick-chase gameplan.
In the lead-up to his Test bow, the 26-year-old speedster revealed how he was inspired to not give up on his Springbok dream by fellow pocket rockets Kolbe and Gio Aplon.
Arendse said: “There was definitely a period where I wanted to give up on the dream of being a Springbok.
“But, I reminded myself of the achievements of Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon. I realised that if they could make it, I could too. That was always enough to just keep me motivated.”
Before receiving his first Bok call-up, Arendse was included in Team SA’s sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games from 29 to 31 July in Birmingham, but Jacques Nienaber must tell him to cancel the flight and report for Bok duty.
Kurt-Lee needn’t worry about packing a scrumcap; he can borrow Cheslin’s and it should fit perfectly, like his jersey.
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