Cheslin Kolbe has revealed the Rassie Erasmus speech that he found to be most inspirational during the 2019 World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
For the cover feature in the latest SA Rugby magazine, Kolbe opened up about the challenges he has overcome during his career, and how he hoped to continue inspiring others after making it to the top of the game.
The talented wing’s first call-up to the Springbok side came before the Australasian leg of the 2018 Rugby Championship, and caught many by surprise at the time.
A Test debut off the bench against the Wallabies quickly followed, but the real heroics would come a week later when he scored a stunning intercept try in the Springboks’ famous two-point win over the All Blacks in Wellington.
Since then, Kolbe has scored eight tries in 14 Tests, culminating with his famous five-pointer against England in the World Cup final.
Although the Boks have unfortunately been out of action since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, the memories from that tournament still burn brightly among the playing squad and coaching staff.
The popular ‘Chasing the Sun’ documentary aired last year provided unique insight into the close-knit team environment, as well as the inspirational team talks that Eramus has become famous for.
When Kolbe was asked to touch on the speech that he would never forget, he said there were too many to mention, but singled out one that immediately came to mind.
‘Something as simple as Coach Rassie coming up one morning and basically just singling out each and every player, knowing where they came from, knowing what their struggles were.
‘He took time personally getting to know every player. Before the final, he came up to all of us and mentioned everything about where we had come from and the challenges people had overcome.
‘That was something more personal for me, because here’s a coach that could focus on the bigger picture, rather than just focusing on winning the World Cup final. What helped us was definitely the diversity in the group, and the brotherhood that we had, not just at the World Cup but in the buildup to it as well.’
Since winning the World Cup, Kolbe earned well-deserved nomination for the 2019 World Rugby awards, while he was soon joining Bok captain Siya Kolisi as a member of powerhouse sports agency Roc Nation.
‘Since I’ve joined up with Roc Nation, I’ve become a more relaxed but more outspoken person in life because of the background and the people I’m working with,’ Kolbe added.
‘I’m really pleased to have an amazing team supporting me on and off the field, and there’s so much good work we’re looking to do. I want to try and use my platform to give back in whatever way possible, whether it’s about sharing my experiences, outreach work, or just going back into the community to remind them of the opportunities to succeed in life.’
There’s also still plenty that Kolbe wants to achieve on the field. He dreams of helping Toulouse clinch the European Champions Cup, while he’s naturally desperate to form part of a winning Bok team against the British & Irish Lions.
Another World Cup and even further Springbok Sevens representation at a future Olympics are also all on the ‘dream’ to-do list.
And although the Springboks have yet to return to action since the 2019 World Cup, Kolbe has consistently captured the headlines almost every time he performs at club level. How has he managed to maintain such form?
‘I think the bigger picture at the end of the day is, “Why I am I doing this? Why do I go out on the field? It’s because I love it, I enjoy it,’ he says.
‘I’m so grateful to still have the opportunity to do what I love. So many people have been through such a difficult time during the pandemic, from the loss of life to the loss of their livelihoods. I’m just so grateful to still be able to play this game, to have a happy and healthy family, and hopefully I can inspire others or at least put a smile on their faces through my performances.’
*This article is a snippet from a full-length feature in the latest SA Rugby magazine, which is now on sale