Cape Town - Their physical dimensions and
rugby roles could hardly be more different ... one a 2.08m, 121kg lock forward
and the other a mere 1.71m, 79kg fullback.
But Andries Bekker and Cheslin Kolbe, known
game-breakers in their far-apart positional stations, were also two players to
feature just a little unexpectedly in key sound-bites by Springbok coach
Heyneke Meyer at a media briefing at a chilly, windswept Cape Town Stadium here
Speaking after a camp training session for
an international pre-season squad of players both established and extremely
rookie, Meyer indicated that he is interested in the Test comeback claims in
this World Cup year of the Japan-based Bekker.
The 31-year-old, currently on the books of
the Kobelco Steelers, is in the city at present and the coach said he would be
having a one-on-one with him on Tuesday to gauge his interest in and
suitability to returning to green-and-gold duty this year.
Bekker played the last of almost nine
yeoman seasons of Super Rugby for the Stormers in 2013, and with his peculiarly
lanky frame and vulnerability to back problems, among others, switched to the
less rigorous environment of the Japanese club scene.
But he never ruled out future Bok
aspirations - he has 29 caps - when signing for the Steelers, and in some
respects may have rejuvenated himself physically to become an attractive depth
option in the Bok second row.
The former Newlands favourite last
represented the country against New Zealand at Ellis Park in the 2012 season,
Meyer’s first in charge of the Boks, when the All Blacks overturned a halftime
deficit to win 32-16.
South Africa have some issues at No 5 lock
with luckless young Pieter-Steph du Toit still sidelined and their current expected
“main man” there being a 38-year-old in the form of Victor Matfield.
Bekker seems a decent, bridging sort of
customer between the pair with his tidy Test experience, while not being overly
long in the tooth himself.
He can be a formidable athlete with ball in
hand, given his long and surprisingly speedy strides at times in open play, and
is a strong lineout factor with the ability to jump at the front, middle and
back of the set-piece.
But if Meyer may yet be convinced to go
“large” with Bekker at some point in 2015, he was also notably effusive about
one of the pocket dynamos of the current Super Rugby scene – slippery Stormers back-three
Indeed, he took mention of Kolbe’s name --
the 21-year-old is a participant in the camp -- by a journalist as a spirited
opportunity to pooh-pooh the notion that he is somehow prejudiced against “smaller”
“There’s a lot of things said about me that
aren’t always true,” the national coach smiled. “I’m sometimes surprised by the
things I read in the media.
“I’ve always believed that no matter how
big or slow you may be or (anything else) it’s about how you perform on the
“Cheslin is a world-class game-breaker and
I like (them). There are all these perceptions ... but Faf (de Klerk, the
in-form Lions scrumhalf, also attending the camp) is also a very small player; his
play has gone through the roof recently.
“A guy like Willie (le Roux) ... he’s been
awesome for us after people said I wouldn’t pick him.
“I wouldn’t try to change Cheslin; I told
him his strength is taking on people one-on-one, his speed and acceleration and
(willingness to) go looking for work.
“I said he must go out and enjoy himself
(on the park) ... and to work on his restrictions and only improve his strong
points. He can be an exceptional player ... good enough to play for the Boks.”
Interestingly, and in a revelation possibly
linked to Kolbe, Meyer said that in Super Rugby he “looks a lot at how guys
play away from home”.
“Everybody expects you to perform at home,
but the (demands) are different and more difficult abroad.”
Kolbe’s thrilling counter-attacking and
resolve on defence for the conference-leading Stormers was a feature of one of
the best overseas results by a South African team this year, when the
Capetonians earned a bonus-point triumph in Sydney over the title-holding
Meyer added, again to Kolbe’s favour: “I am
also interested in players who can play in more than one position.”
The Kraaifontein-born prospect, not yet
capped at Test level, can be equally at home on the wing as in the last line of
While there are no guarantees Kolbe will make
a Bok match-day squad in the immediate future, it seems he has at least
appeared more brightly than some may think on Meyer’s radar ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing