Despite a severely disrupted 2020 rugby calendar, CRAIG LEWIS believes Cheslin Kolbe would have every chance of being named the World Rugby Player of the Year.
In a world that has undergone immense change since the Springboks’ momentous World Cup triumph, it’s always uplifting to see that some things remain the same.
In particular, it’s the form of Kolbe that looks to be as otherworldly as it was when he emerged as one of the Boks’ MVPs during an unforgettable campaign in Japan.
This year has seen a number of unfortunate disruptions and suspensions to rugby competitions around the world, but as action has resumed up north, so Kolbe has quickly demonstrated that he has no intention of slowing down.
Call it X-factor or that special something; the Boks under Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have placed a premium on looking for a player who boasts qualities that set him apart from the crowd.
In that context, there is probably no player who better epitomises this selection criteria than Kolbe. Through sheer weight of performances over his first two years on the Test stage, the diminutive Springbok star has blazed his own unique trail in world rugby.
Such has been his success that any conversations around his size have faded into the distance as if mirroring the flailing English defenders who were left in his wake as he blitzed through for his famous try in last year’s World Cup final.
Kolbe – who punches above his weight on defence and seems to defy gravity with his abilities under the high ball – has proven that little men can make it big on the Test stage.
Yet, despite his rise to prominence as one of the most highly-regarded players in the world, Kolbe remains as down to earth and humble as they come, unencumbered by his sudden fame and immense popularity.
Earlier this year, I was privileged to spend over an hour chatting to the 26-year-old during a period of lockdown that he spent in Cape Town, while involving himself in various outreach work to assist those less fortunate.
So willingly also giving of his time during our interview, Kolbe happily chatted away as he reflected on the World Cup campaign, while providing insight into the person behind the unstoppable player during conversations around the inspirational work conducted during the pandemic.
Since returning to France, Kolbe has hit the ground running. Last weekend, the Bok wing capped an outstanding performance for Toulouse with a brace of tries against La Rochelle on Saturday.
And on Sunday, he elevated his game to another level, banking another Man of the Match award in a mesmerising two-try display against Ulster in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll added his voice to a chorus of praise when he admitted watching a player like Kolbe made him grateful that he had retired so that he didn’t have to defend against him.
Kolbe’s focus will now be on maintaining his fitness and form as the new season continues, but every indication is that the dynamic wing remains at the height of his peerless powers.
He is a player like no other, with his dynamism, accuracy under the high ball, bravery on defence and lethal attacking game setting him apart in world rugby.
Just several months ago, Kolbe was literally being held aloft by his teammates after scoring that try in the World Cup final. A day later, he was in attendance at the 2019 World Rugby awards, where he was a nominee for World Player of the Year.
It remains to be seen where and when these awards might be held for 2020, but there’s every reason to believe that there is no player in the game better than Kolbe right now.
When I watch players like Kolbe I’m so thrilled to have retired a few years back. One on one he’s incredible to watch unless you’re the other one!
*you’ll still be watching mind https://t.co/xZ2rzIzOSr
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) September 20, 2020
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 20, 2020