Four former Springboks on whether Cheslin Kolbe's size would count against him at Test level and if he could move to scrumhalf.
Corné Krige (former Bok flank)
‘It’s an interesting question, because I believe if you’re old enough and good enough, then you can play Test rugby. Cheslin is on the small side, but that’s what makes rugby so special. Rugby is a game played by people of all shapes and sizes. Whenever World Rugby wants to change a rule, it refers back to that belief, to prevent the sport from becoming like rugby league where all the players are a similar shape and size. The rules of rugby allow for a small guy to be there. I think Cheslin can play Test rugby, but there’s not a lot of space for him to do the things we know he can do, so I think sevens suits him better. However, I do think he has the ability to play Test rugby, whether at fullback or scrumhalf. He could play scrumhalf, but it would all depend on how well he adapted to the requirements of the position.'
Kobus Wiese (former Bok lock)
‘I don't think Kolbe is too small to play Test rugby, because he’s the same size as some of the best scrumhalves [in world rugby]. I think there’s a position for everybody in a rugby team regardless of your shape or size although, as the saying goes, “a big good player is always better than a good small player”. I do think it’s too late in Kolbe's career for him to move to scrumhalf. It’s like trying to move a seasoned tighthead prop to loosehead, technically it’s very difficult, and we have good scrumhalves playing in the country already and coming through the ranks.'
Werner Swanepoel (former Bok scrumhalf)
‘If a player is good enough, his size shouldn’t matter. There is a little concern about Cheslin's defence, but then again is [incumbent Bok fullback] Willie le Roux such a good defender? Cheslin has never been given a real chance, but we all know what he's capable of. I don’t think he had the best of games against the Bulls [last week], but again you can’t always have 50 great games in a season. Regarding the Boks, I’m not sure who our best fullback is at the moment. Willie is a great player, but he’s been blowing hot and cold. With the Test series coming up against Ireland, Cheslin should be given a chance, because we know what we have in Willie, and we’ve tried Jesse Kriel at 15 as well. I think it’s time for Allister Coetzee to say, “Let’s give Kolbe three Tests against Ireland and see what he can do”. If he doesn’t make the cut at fullback, but he thinks he can at scrumhalf, then why not move there? But it’s not something you do halfway through a Super Rugby season. The two positions are technically very different, but he’s definitely got the attributes of a good scrumhalf. It’s something the player and coach would have to discuss and decide upon.'
Breyton Paulse (former Bok wing)
‘I don’t think Cheslin is too small, he’s more than proved himself in terms of his abilities at fullback. However, because of his bravery, he lets himself down with his decision-making. But that is something that can be worked on – deciding when to run, kick or take players on. And if you don’t want to start him at fullback, there's always the option of using him off the bench. In the modern game, players don’t need to worry too much about their size. Cheslin is strong enough, he’s prepared to take players on and he has the ability to beat the defender. Once he gets the balance right between when to attack and when to kick, he’ll be a really great player. We’ve seen what Damian McKenzie [who's also a small player] has been doing for the Chiefs, he’s leading most of the stats in Super Rugby and that’s why I think Cheslin is good enough to play Test rugby. I don’t think he should make the move to scrumhalf, it’s a very specialised position and he’d have to go back to the lower levels to learn the skills and elements required to be successful in the position.'
Interviews by Tyrone Engel
Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images