World Cup-winner Cheslin Kolbe has recalled the moment of disbelief when he first heard he’d received a call-up to the Springboks in 2018, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with SA Rugby magazine, Kolbe looked back on a golden period with the national side when he starred in his debut season in 2018, before backing that up with an unforgettable 2019, which included taking the World Cup by storm – culminating in an unforgettable try in the final.
Since his debut against the Wallabies, Kolbe has recorded eight tries in 14 Tests, and was a nominee for the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year award (which ultimately went the way of Bok teammate Pieter-Steph du Toit).
The 26-year-old’s immediate success on the Test stage makes it difficult to remember that his call-up during the 2018 Rugby Championship was actually seen as a left-field selection by many at the time.
Yet, Rassie Erasmus had recognised Kolbe’s consistently impressive performances for French club Toulouse, and quickly brought the dynamic and versatile back into the Bok set-up at the start of his tenure.
Reflecting on that moment, Kolbe offered up a comical anecdote.
‘I can remember getting the call-up from coach Rassie Erasmus in 2018, it was just after an away game against Lyon. When we got back together as a team on the Monday morning, we headed into our team meeting and our forwards coach at the time, William Servat, came to me and asked me to bring him some biltong.
‘I didn’t know what he meant because I wasn’t planning to go back to South Africa anytime soon as the season over there had just started. I started to tell him I’d try and get my wife to bring some the next time, but he just got up and left.
‘Then the coach [Ugo Mola] walked in, I greeted him and he just shook his head. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I was a bit confused and was trying to think if I’d done anything wrong because it was a bit awkward.
‘When the meeting ended, he [Mola] asked me to stay behind and told me that I’d been called up by the Springboks, and although he said it was sad to let me go, they were happy to release me.
‘They knew it would be my first time [with the Boks] and how much it meant to me to represent my country. It had always been a dream since I was kid, and one that I never gave up on every since I moved to France. That opportunity came in 2018, and it just shows if you are playing the best rugby you can, there are coaches and people who are keeping an eye on you and will reward you.’
*The full interview with Kolbe will feature in an upcoming issue of SA Rugby magazine.