International Rugby, Opinions

Kolbe cooks as current best back in World Rugby

The Springboks, winners of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, were also confirmed as the best sporting team in the world at the annual Laureus Awards. Pieter-Steph du Toit was named best player in the world at the end of 2019. Du Toit is the best forward currently playing rugby and I would argue that Springbok and Toulouse wing-turned-utility back Cheslin Kolbe is the best backline player in the game in 2020.

Kolbe, for me, was the most dynamic backline player in world rugby in 2019 and within a few months of the Springboks’ incredible World Cup triumph in Tokyo, Japan, Kolbe continues to put on the afterburners and fire.

Kolbe won every award possible for Toulouse in the French Top 14. He was also voted the best foreign import in French rugby. The French rugby media are scathing of high-profile signings who don’t deliver, but they fell in love with Kolbe from his first outing when he arrived looking like David but equally slayed every giant he fronted.

The Blitzboks management and the South African Rugby Union are trying desperately to get Kolbe released to play in the Olympics. He would add a dimension to the Blitzboks, as he did when he initially played the shortened version of the game.

Kolbe, since leaving Western Province and the Stormers, has been electric for Toulouse. Some prophets are not recognized in their own country and, on leaving South Africa, Kolbe fell into this category of special rugby player who had to leave to have his talents applauded.

There has never been any ill-feeling from Kolbe and he has relished every opportunity given to him by National Director of Rugby and World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus. Kolbe was an integral part of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship-title triumph and he sizzled for the Springboks at the World Cup.

It was fitting that Kolbe would score the Boks’s final try in the 32-12 demolition of England.

He hasn’t looked back since the World Cup final night and he simply produces consistently amazing performances for Toulouse.

Kolbe, who can play fullback, left wing and right wing, has also in the past covered at scrumhalf, but against Racing 92, the Bok superstar started at flyhalf for the first time.

He showed all his class and skill to deliver a composed and imposing display, which ordinarily would have contributed to a Toulouse win. Racing sneaked the victory in the final minutes but it was Kolbe who had done everything to set up a Toulouse celebration.

He showed his all-round skill with two penalty kicks and two conversions, with one magnificent strike from the touchline. His attack was more limited because of playing at flyhalf but he still managed to beat three defenders in one-on-one situation, win 17 metres on attack and claim a lineout from a quick throw. Not surprisingly, he created one try and made several telling tackles.

Kolbe, in interviews has spoken about All Black Christian Cullen being his favourite player. Kolbe has said Cullen inspired him as a youngster. I am sure Cullen would return the compliment and talk of Kolbe’s inspiration.

If Cullen was my favourite player 20 years ago, then Kolbe is without doubt my favourite player in 2020.

He is of that rare breed that you happily pay the entrance fee just to watch his feet dazzle and delight at his rugby.


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