Springbok superstar Cheslin Kolbe has shared how some wise fatherly advice kept him on the path to professional rugby when he was a youngster, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In the latest SA Rugby magazine, Kolbe opens up about his upbringing, how rugby changed his life, and highlights what he has learned from challenges faced along the way on his rugby journey.
Kolbe’s father Andrew was a passionate rugby player himself back in the day, and much of Cheslin’s formative years were spent kicking a ball around on the sidelines while his dad played or trained.
Having quickly developed a love for the game, Kolbe looked to make a name for himself at the South African rugby youth weeks, but also faced persistent questions from those who doubted he would make it to the highest level of the game due to his diminutive stature.
‘I must tell you that since U12 level and going through Western Province trials, I’d struggled to make it,’ he tells SA Rugby magazine. ‘When I went to the U15 trials, I made it to the second round and then I was told the same thing that I was told when I was just starting with trials: basically that I wouldn’t be able to get into professional set-ups because I’m just too small, I’m just a laaitie, and that I wouldn’t be able to compete against the big guys.
‘It was 2008, and I basically wanted to give up. But my dad gave me good advice – perfect advice – to motivate me, not to force me into anything, but to just keep doing what I loved. And at that time I was definitely in love with rugby, but I was being put down all the time because of people doubting me and obviously just giving me negative feedback.’
Even when Kolbe broke through to play for Western Province and the Stormers, questions about his size still persisted whenever he missed a tackle or came off second best in a collision.
In the inspirational ‘Chasing the Sun’ documentary, Kolbe’s father in fact touches on this subject in the final episode, while highlighting his son’s enduring fighting spirit.
‘It was very tough for him. When you open the newspaper, you read comments about how small Cheslin is. But Cheslin’s words always stuck with me: “Dad, I will become a Springbok”,’ Andrew added as he became emotional.
For Kolbe, his move to French club Toulouse in 2017 was a game changer as he thrived in an environment where there wasn’t the same level of preoccupation around his size, while his flair in open play and courage in contact was celebrated.
It also rewarded Kolbe with a call-up to the Springboks in 2018, and since then his game has soared to new heights, headlined by his heroics at the 2019 World Cup.
‘I think that once you have walked down a tough road and had to prove yourself to people all the time, that’s when you enjoy those little victories,’ he smiles upon reflection.
*This is just a snippet from the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale. Make sure you get your hands on this new issue, which is packed with more exclusive interviews.
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