Cheslin Kolbe is one of rugby’s most highly-valued players for good reason. He boasts pure box-office spectator appeal and is the game’s most marketable player, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Ever few weeks, Kolbe seems to join a new ‘rugby family’. Whether it’s Gilbert Rugby, Super Dry apparel, or serving as a Nike athlete ambassador, it’s evident that the Bok wing has gone global.
Also snapped up by Roc Nation Sports as one of their first rugby signings, it’s no surprise that his brand continues to take off at a rate of knots.
According to news out of France, Kolbe is now set to make the move from Toulouse to Toulon later this year, and will reportedly be in line to bank a whopping annual salary of €1m (R17.5m).
“This is an exception made for an exceptional player,” Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre stated.
“A lot of things are now favourable to Toulon. It is an important operation and not easy to carry out in terms of the salary cap. It’s really an exceptional opportunity, especially since we needed a game winner in the backline. For a more average player, we would not have done it.”
Such comments speak volumes.
Kolbe is seen as a mega star, and his game-changing exploits (headlined by his stunning tries in the World Cup final and recent Lions series decider) have elevated him into a different stratosphere.
Yet, as big as Kolbe gets in the game, the Bok superstar never forgets his roots. His humble upbringing in the Cape Town suburb of Kraaifontein, where gangsterism and the drug trade were rife in the community, adds to Kolbe’s remarkable backstory.
“If it wasn’t for sport I wouldn’t be where I am,” Kolbe told SA Rugby magazine earlier this year. “I would probably have become one of the victims, making the wrong decisions. Sport, and rugby in particular, guided me in the right direction and helped me make wise decisions. At the same time, it has taught me so much about discipline and working hard for what you want.”
Once undeniably undervalued as a player in South Africa, Kolbe is now a rugby rock star, while his exploits for the Springboks since making his debut in 2018 have made a mockery of those who once wrote him off.
Kolbe’s journey has been unlike any other in the history of the game.
In the space of a few short years, he has won a Rugby Championship, World Cup and British & Irish Lions series. During his time with Toulouse, he made 82 appearances, scoring 172 points, helping them win the Top 14 title in 2019 and a domestic and European double in 2021.
Away from the game, he is a family man, humble, softly-spoken and down-to-earth.
“I’m a very quiet guy who doesn’t like to talk too much but I’ve also learned that you have to put yourself out there, to express where you’ve come from and what your mission is in life because it can help others,” Kolbe once described.
Kolbe is now a global superstar, and making every opportunity count. Good on him.