Cape Town’s Cheslin Kolbe, who was once too small to play international rugby, is now one of the most talked-about players in the world.
At 1.71m and 80kg, Kolbe is one of the smallest players on the international scene. But what he lacks in size, he makes up with ridiculous skill and lightning pace.
It’s hard to believe there was a time – and not too long ago – when he wasn’t on the Bok radar.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) March 7, 2021
Kolbe and his wife, Layla, attended a test match between the Boks and England at Ellis Park in 2018. “I have always wanted to play Test rugby and to represent the Boks,” he says. “I watched that game as a fan and was inspired by what I saw. It strengthened my resolve to realise my dream.”
Kolbe moved to Europe to play club rugby for the 2017/2018 season while still pursuing his dream to become a Springbok. “Toulouse (France) was the start of a new chapter for me,” he says. “My wife and I treated the move like an adventure. It was something completely different for us. Just getting our heads around the culture and the language was a challenge”. He officially joined the Boks in 2018.
“I suppose it comes down to taking opportunities,” he says. “I was fortunate I had a coach who was willing to consider me for the national side while I was playing in France. If you play the best rugby you can and you never give up, you are always going to improve your chances of getting picked.”
In a recent interview with SA Rugby mag, Kolbe told editor Craig Lewis how his upbringing made him stronger. Check out the interview below:
For the most part, however, Kolbe has risen to these challenges and proved many people wrong.
“I’ve got used to people making a big deal about my size,” he says with a smile. “I guess that’s always going to be the perception, but I would prefer it if people judged me on my performance.”
“My father taught me that if you want something you have to work hard for it. He told me there will always be people who criticise you and try to tell you that something is not possible or that you are too small.”
“I feel I’m doing my part. Who knows, maybe other people who aren’t as big as everyone else will look at me and see that size isn’t everything.”
It’s fair to say that Kolbe has proved himself as a “small” man during a big occasion. We will never forget the try he scored in the 2019 World Cup final.
Photos: SA Rugby mag