Cheslin Kolbe might be the smallest man in the DHL Stormers team, but he packs one of the hardest punches.
There was a collective sigh of disappointment among the DHL Western Province Faithful when Gio Aplon decided to play out his career in France.
However, alongside a myriad enduring memories, he left us with his protégé: Cheslin Kolbe.
Now 21, Kolbe has already appeared in two Currie Cup finals and, believe it or not, has been the senior partner in the DHL Stormers’ back-three combination in the early rounds of Vodacom Super Rugby.
The men under his wing have been Dillyn Leyds and Johnny Kotze, who both made their debut for the DHL Stormers this season. Between them they share a modest nine Super Rugby caps, which includes Leyds’s three substitute appearances for the Western Force last year.
Kolbe now has 10 DHL Stormers caps under the belt to go with the 29 matches he has played for DHL Western Province. His temperament and remarkable running skills have also been shaped by his Springbok Sevens duties.
“The early signs were good, but there is lots of hard work ahead,” Kolbe says of the combination with Leyds and Kotze.
“Dillyn’s experience of playing fullback definitely makes things easier for me. He knows the responsibilities of a fullback and can read the game.
“Having played in two Currie Cup tournaments, there is a bit of responsibility on my shoulders to give feedback to the other players. We all still have a lot to learn.”
Kobus van Wyk’s return on the wing will no doubt add some meat to the DHL Stormers’ backline, but he is also playing in only his second Super Rugby campaign.
The early stages of the tournament have nevertheless shown that youth can be as much of an asset as experience.
“We’re a young side with some experienced leaders,” Kolbe says, mindful of the guidance from impressive seniors such as Duane Vermeulen and Juan de Jongh.
“Rugby is a game where you’re experienced enough if you’re talented enough. If coaches back you, irrespective of your age, the confidence you get from them spills over into your game.”
Nowhere else was the DHL Stormers’ youthful enthusiasm more evident than in the opening round when they defeated the Bulls 29-17 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
What heightened the enjoyment factor was that all and sundry had predicted a victory for a significantly more experienced and decorated Bulls team. “That gave us so much energy, and being underdogs made it all the more exciting,” says Kolbe.
Notwithstanding his youth, Kolbe has some lost time to make up for. The stage was set for him ahead of last season’s campaign, but he picked up a knee injury during a pre-season training camp in Hermanus.
Consequently, he could only start playing for the DHL Stormers in the 10th match of the campaign. It was a bit of an anti-climax, though Kolbe nevertheless provided glimpses of his special talent.
“I have set a few goals, the first of which is simply to use my opportunities to perform to a high standard week in and week out,” Kolbe says.
The revamped coaching structures at DHL WP have also benefited Kolbe, as demonstrated by the reverse banana kick with which he transferred pressure in the 27-16 victory over the Blues at DHL Newlands.
It was no doubt thanks to knowledge imparted by kicking coach Vlok Cilliers.
“Vlok is a very experienced kicking coach, and he helps me a lot. There are small details I didn’t think about before. These are very important because kicking is a vital part of the game,” Kolbe says.
Of course, we’d all much prefer Kolbe to tuck the ball under his arm and cast his spell. But pragmatism is a necessary attribute for an ambitious Super Rugby team. On top of that, Kolbe will be watched closely by opponents now that he is no longer an unknown entity.
“The second season is always a challenge because teams analyse you. You’re suddenly under pressure to bring something different,” he says.
Kolbe, however, has taken well to the demands of playing fullback. He’s brave, makes good decisions, and his positional play is sound. Now it’s just a matter of that special talent being fostered, as is the case in a number of positions in a youthful DHL Stormers side.
“The future is looking very good,” Kolbe says.
“We’re a young squad with an average age of 23. It’s up to us to seize the moment and make it a season to remember.”
Ngubani wayethe umboxo ngowabantu abakhulu qha?
Umdlali we Stormers uChelsin Kolbe wenza intlekisa ngabobantu abangafuniyo ukunika amathuba kubadlali abancinci ngoba besithi abanakwenza mehluko emdlalweni.
Buza iBulls kwaye neBlues ngesandla sika Kolbe emidlawenu yabo neStormers kwimidlalo yalo nyaka kwiSuper Rugby.
Ibingulo wakwa Kolbe othe watshabalalisa amathemba weBulls neBlues zokuphumelela ngexa bebedlala neStormers.
Ukuzibonakalisa kuka Kolbe edlal kwafullback kuqale kwiCurrie Cup apho abengomnya wabadlali abagqamileyo zantshatsheli iWestern Province.
uKolbe uphinde wabonakalisa ukuba akoyiki nto ngakumbi kuba enalomzimba umncinci anawo kwaye ibangathi nobomi akabuthatheli ntweni xana kusithiwa makagagane nezigantsontso ezilapha ngaphambili.
Uyindoda uphelele pha ngemva, uyabona kwaye naxana ephepha uyothusa kwaye unaso nesantya.
Ungena kakuhle ke kumbhoxo weStormers ngakumbi kule champagne rugby abayidlalayo le ibenze babelelona qela liphambili apha kwiconference yalapha ekhaya kwaye imbabeke kusibini etafileni kweSuper Rugby yonke idibene.
Namhlanje kumdlalo weStormers neSharks apha eNewlands, amehlo onke kwiqela le Sharks akube enjonge kuKolbe.
Ukhuba iSharks zinejongo zokuba liqhela lokuqala ukubetha iStormers kulonyaka kwakufuneka baqiniseke ukuba abamniki mathuba uKolbe kodwa khe bahlale bejongile namaphiko eStormers uDillyn Leyds noJohnny Kotze.
uLeyds sezibonakalisile kumjikelo wokuqala neBulls eLoftus Versfeld nangomdlalo weBlues ukuba naye unaso isantya kwaye uyakwazi ukuvusa ithuba kungekhonto.
Noba lo wakwa Kolbe kuzobanzima ukuba alenze iqela lesizwe elizokuya kwindebe yomhlaba ekupheleni kwalonyaka, ukunceda kwakhe iStormers ziphumelela indebe yabo yokuqala ye Super Rugby iyakukwandisa amathuba wakhe ukuba abeseqeleni lesizwe leSevens ukuya kwiOlympics eRio kulonyaka ozayo.
DHL Stormers Matchday Magazine