Cape Town - SA Rugby bosses should scrap the 30 Test foreign-based player eligibility
ruling and uncapped Cheslin Kolbe should be playing for the
Springboks this year.
has been the superstar of Toulouse and been every bit as brilliant as he was
when playing for the Stormers and Western Province. The French media judged him
the best foreign import in the French Top 14 and Toulouse coach Ugo Mola
described Kolbe as a player who fills stadiums because of his attacking
sensational for the Blitzboks in recent years, was consistently impressive for
the Stormers and Western Province. His best position is fullback and he also
regularly played wing.
Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee (as Springbok coaches) overlooked Kolbe
because of a supposed lack of physicality and size. Kolbe’s genius on attack
was deemed secondary to his 75kg in weight. Only in South Africa!
coaches traditionally have been obsessed with size, too often picking lumbering
one dimensional outside backs.
attacking threat is the equal of any of the world’s recognized best outside
backs. Kolbe, physically, is very similar to All Blacks fullback Damian
McKenzie, who was a star for the All Blacks this season and crushed the spirit
of the Springboks in the All Blacks win in Cape Town.
Zealand’s selectors, as they tend to do, looked at what the player could do
when giving him an opportunity. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is well aware of
the vulnerabilities in McKenzie’s make-up. Hansen has spoken of his future perhaps
being at flyhalf. But never was McKenzie’s attacking threat dismissed because
of areas in which the national coach felt he may be suspect.
South Africa, the tendency is to justify a player’s omission based on the fear
of what he won’t be able to do as opposed to including him on the promise of
Springboks in 2017 persisted with Andries Coetzee as a fullback in 13
successive Tests. Springbok coach Allister Coetzee defended the selection of
Coetzee on the basis that he played low risk and error free rugby. Ironically,
Coetzee was a horror show of errors in the Springboks defeat against Wales in
Cardiff to complete the 2017 international season.
Springboks, under Coetzee, have won 11 from 25 Tests. Had Coetzee had the
vision to invest in players of Kolbe’s ilk then perhaps that figure would look
be decidedly better.
isn’t the first attacking genius to be blocked as a Springbok because of fears
that physically he wasn’t big enough to play Test rugby. Brent Russell, in the
early 2000s was every bit as talented as Australia’s Matt Giteau. The
difference was the Australian coaches found reasons to invest in Giteau’s
obvious talents and the Springbok selectors found it more compelling to look at
what Russell couldn’t do; not what he so brilliantly did so naturally on
Mallett, former Springbok and Italian coach, believes Kolbe should have played
scrumhalf to make it? Why?
Connolly, during his time as Australian coach, tried to turn Giteau in a Test
scrumhalf. All he did was dull Giteau’s attacking threat, which was best when
he played at flyhalf or inside centre.
Aplon was another of those South African players supposedly not big enough to
play fullback or wing for South Africa. Aplon played for the Springboks but was
never entrusted to play his natural attacking game in the No 15 jersey.
would leave South Africa to be one of the most potent attacking forces in the
French Top 14. The same mistake can’t be made with Kolbe.
has to be a change in mindset in South African rugby. A player’s skill set
should trump his weight (or lack thereof) every time when doing an assessment.
has to be an open-minded approach to what constitutes making the Springboks
powerful again. It starts with an appreciation for the attacking qualities of,
especially outside backs, and it also has to include the selection of the best
players, regardless of where they play or how many times they have played for
player drain to Europe will never be curbed. It is the way of the professional
rugby world. The landscape has changed and financially the rand cannot compete
with the lure of the Euro or British Pound.
only losers in the current selection policy are the Springboks and it would be
a crime if Kolbe’s Test career is playing for France when he so obviously
should be wearing green and gold.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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