‘Lions series made me fall more in love with rugby’

Cheslin Kolbe has opened up on his fond memories of the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and his eagerness to be a part of the 2021 series against the side.

Kolbe was just 15 years old when the Lions last toured South Africa and battled it out against the Springboks in what was a memorable Test series.

The Springboks would claim an unassailable 2-0 series lead after winning the second Test thanks to a dramatic last-gasp long-range penalty, but the Lions would win the third and final Test of the series.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kolbe said watching that series unfold only strengthened his love of rugby.

‘2009 was the first time I ever got my provincial colours back home, and that was the same year when the British & Irish Lions toured South Africa,’ Kolbe said.

‘I was always in love with the game, but that’s when I definitely fell more and more in love with the game.

‘Just watching it on TV, the majority of supporters in the stadiums were wearing red jerseys and the atmosphere all around was insane. I have never seen South Africa as crazy as what it was back in 2009.’

The 2019 World Cup winner will line up for Toulouse in their European Champions Cup final against La Rochelle, but is keen to get back in action with the Springboks, who have not played since the World Cup final due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘It [the Lions tour] comes every 12 years, and for us as players you definitely want to give yourself an opportunity to be a part of that group, and just make sure that you keep performing week in and week out to showcase to the coaches and the selectors back in South Africa.

‘It has been a year and a half now without any international rugby, and I am actually quite excited to see how the boys are going to be going.

‘I know once you pull on that green-and-gold jersey, you just leave everything out on the field, and I am sure that once the group has been announced we will definitely have good preparation leading up to the Lions tour.’

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Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Image

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Dylan Jack