Cheslin Kolbe says he has always enjoyed the challenge of facing opponents who are bigger than him, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.
Standing just 1.72m tall and weighing in around 75kg, Kolbe is no stranger to being asked about his size and ability to punch above his weight.
When Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick shared his views on the Springbok newcomer earlier this week, he reiterated that when it came to Kolbe, it was not about the size of the man, but rather the size of his heart.
While Kolbe is well known for his attacking X-factor, it was also his gumption on defence that he most aptly illustrated in the Boks’ famous win over the All Blacks in Wellington earlier this month.
Coming off the bench to slot in on the wing, the 24-year-old made a number of crucial defensive reads, including a powerful try-saving tackle on towering opposite number Rieko Ioane.
Kolbe is now set to make his first start for the Springboks in this Saturday’s clash against the Wallabies, and he could only smile when asked about how his defensive game had developed in recent times.
‘I get that a lot, as I always say, I’m not the biggest guy on the field, but playing against opposition who are bigger than me is something that just excites me. It doesn’t matter what size or weight you are; I just enjoy showing others that you don’t have to only have size, you have to just have the right belief, mindset and attitude to back yourself 100%.’
After several years featuring for Western Province and the Stormers – predominantly at fullback – Kolbe made the move to Toulouse last year, and has quickly established himself as one of the French club’s most highly-regarded players.
Kolbe said he was grateful that the move abroad had proved to be a beneficial one.
‘The decision I made at that stage [to head overseas] wasn’t just for rugby reasons, but because I felt I needed a change. I always told myself that I’d never give up on the dream to wear the green and gold jersey. I just kept on working hard and tried to play the best rugby I could.
‘I’m so grateful for this opportunity now to make my first start. Having played off the bench in the last couple of games, I know that playing Test rugby is definitely a big step up, and you have to make the right decisions at the right time.
‘It’s so important to read the play and make good decisions to benefit the team. I’m still learning and finding my feet in the team, but the guys around me have really helped make it easy for me to fit in.’
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images