In his bid to help South Africa retain their Rugby World Cup title, speedster Cheslin Kolbe is ready to leave his favourite position on the wing and dig into his rugby sevens experience to play at halfback against New Zealand in the final.
Kolbe, who scored a try for the Springboks in the final against England four years ago, has been putting on scintillating displays on the wing during this year’s tournament in France.
His speed and guile were crucial in the quarter-finals when the Springboks edged France two weeks ago.
The diminutive Kolbe touched down in that tense contest and his charge down at full speed to block a conversion attempt by Thomas Ramos was a game-changer as South Africa prevailed 29-28 at the Stade de France.
But against the All Blacks on the same turf in Saturday’s showdown, Kolbe could be used in a way different role at some point.
Since South Africa did not include a reserve halfback on their bench, opting for seven forwards and just one back, Kolbe would be needed if Faf de Klerk has to be replaced.
“I will just do the best I can to make sure I have a positive impact towards the team and contribute in any way I can,” said Kolbe.
“I played sevens rugby, and I was a sweeper there, and I’ve played in two games before for the Boks at scrumhalf, so I believe in the coaches’ plans.”
Kolbe, who has made more line breaks than any other Springbok player at the tournament, said the last time he played at halfback in an international match was against Argentina, “maybe in 2021.”
“You never want to see any injuries for a player, but if the opportunity does happen to go to scrum-half, I will make the most of it and make sure I enjoy myself,” he said, adding that he received input from de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams “to help prepare so that I can be at the required standard.”
Kolbe will be celebrating his 30th birthday on the day of the match but insisted he will have way more important things in mind when the time comes for the biggest match in rugby between the two giants, each trying to become the first nation to win the World Cup four times.
“It’s another year, another blessing for me, but it’s not about me or celebrating my birthday,” Kolbe said.
“I am grateful for another year in my life but to be standing here to represent my country is more than anything for me.
“My main focus will be to go out on the field to express this wonderful talent I’ve been given and do my best. I am definitely looking forward to it.”
“Growing up, it’s a Test environment that you would love to be a part of one day. Playing against the All Blacks, it is history, it has always been a massive rivalry and it has been like that for years.”