Emotional farewell for Cheslin Kolbe
Gareth Duncan - My Players.co.za
Cape Town - Stormers speedster Cheslin Kolbe says he appreciates all the opportunities given to him during his time at Newlands as he now prepares for a new chapter at Toulouse in France.
Kolbe, 23, enjoyed an impressive career during his five seasons of professional rugby at Western Province. After emerging as an exciting talent at school level, representing the union at the under-18 Craven Week in 2010 and 2011, he quickly played his way into the senior ranks in Cape Town - featuring regularly on the Super Rugby and Currie Cup scene. He was also part of the Western Province team that lifted the domestic title in 2014.
He represented the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championships in 2013, while received his first Springbok squad call-up in 2016.
He also excelled in sevens, playing a role in the Blitzboks’ World Series title-winning campaign during the 2016-17 season, the Olympic bronze in Brazil in 2016 and the gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Kolbe is proud of these achievements, describing his career as “a dream come true”. He also stressed that he would have never achieved these feats if he gave in to the criticism around his size - he stands at 1.71m and weighs 76kg (SA Rugby.net).
“Growing up as a kid, I watched a lot of rugby. I was a big fan. My dad played for the local club and I watched the games at Newlands too. It was always my dream to play for Western Province and the Stormers,” Kolbe told MyPlayers.
“During my career, I was always told I was too small to play professional rugby. But I didn’t let this stop me from going for my goals. I focused on my strengths and worked hard to improve my all-round abilities. When I was given an opportunity, I made sure I gave it my all.
“I’m very happy with my development over the years. I’ve learned a lot and improved so much during my time at WP. This is something I will always appreciate.
“My favourite memory is running out at Newlands for the senior team for the first time. We’ve played some amazing games over the years, but nothing will compare to the emotions I experienced during that first match.”
Following the end of their Super Rugby campaign, the Stormers spent some time in Langebaan as the players enjoyed a season-ending team breakaway.
“I’ve built some lifelong friendships during my time at WP. I might be leaving, but I will definitely keep in touch. This is a special team, with some amazing guys. I’m going to miss playing in Cape Town,” said Kolbe.
Kolbe leaves for Toulouse next week, where he will join former Cheetahs prop Maks van Dyk as the two South Africans based at the French club. The 23-year-old said he’s already received advice ahead of his move.
“I’ve been in France before when I played for the Junior Springboks in 2013. It’s a great country, with so much culture and places to explore,” said Kolbe. “I’ve also chatted to Maks van Dyk, who’s already played a season at Toulouse, and other former team-mates, who currently play in France. A guy like Gio Aplon gave me some good advice.
“There’s a lot I need to prepare for the trip next week. I’m also taking French lessons as I need to learn the language over the next few months. I’m excited to start a new chapter with Toulouse, who want me to embrace my attacking rugby.”
Off the field, there are many highlights for the Kolbe family. He gets married to fiancé Leila Cupido in December, who will then join him with their daughter in France thereafter.
“Life away from rugby has been exciting. My fiancé and I have been blessed with a healthy daughter and planning for the wedding has been great. I appreciate my partner a lot as she plays a big role in our daughter’s life, especially when I’m away because of rugby,” said Kolbe.
“I can’t wait to get married and have them joining me in France in December. All the amazing European cities are nearby to one another, so we will travel when we have the opportunity to do so.”
For more exclusive player content, check out MyPlayers.co.za