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Saturday, June 15, 2024

How the Springboks’ family environment contributed to Rugby World Cup success

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Double World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe is eager to test the waters in a new club rugby environment when he joins up with Suntory Sungoliath in Tokyo for the new Japan Rugby League One season.

The 30-year-old Springboks wing will be linking up with the likes of All Black captain Sam Cane and Welsh flyhalf Gareth Anscombe, who’ll also be joining the club after finishing off at French outfit Toulon before the World Cup.

A host of his World Cup-winning teammates also ply their trade in Japan’s top league, and he is set to face Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Pieter-steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), and Faf de Klerk and Jesse Kriel, who are based at the Cannon Eagles, on his new journey.

Kolbe – who played an instrumental role in the Springboks’ quest of going back-to-back at the World Cup when they beat New Zealand 12-11 in Paris last month – yesterday visited his old primary school, Simonsberg, in Kraaifontein, near Cape Town, and also surprised pupils at Petunia Primary in the community where he grew up.

He wanted to give back a little before he embarked on his new rugby journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.

“I honestly cannot wait to land in Japan to meet the players and management at Suntory, just to get back to business,” Kolbe said.

“It’s another opportunity for me to experience how things work over there in a new league. Hopefully I can take a bit of my experience from the French league to the Japanese, but also learn from them over there.”

It was an emotional visit for him to the community where everything around his rugby started, and he encouraged the kids to believe that any of their dreams are always achievable.

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He had a lump in his throat and fought back the tears as he told them to keep dreaming, just like he did when he was a young boy.

The Roc Nation athlete has plans to launch his foundation soon, through which he and wife Layla aim to plough back into not only the Kraaifontein community, but also across South Africa.

Kolbe said the World Cup success showed again how important a family environment was, and what the Springbok bosses Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber got right.

“This was the defining thing for both our World Cup wins,” the speedster said.

“They opened the Springbok door to the families. “They allowed the families to stay with us throughout the World Cup. From speaking to players on other teams, I can say they didn’t have the luxury of having their families there.

“Maybe they could stay for five to 10 days, but they had to leave. For us to know that our families are there with us, and after a tough day of training, we get to go back to them…

“You get to the hotel and see your kids and wife, and you can just spend a bit of downtime with them. It does bring a bit of calmness, a bit of freshness to you.

“Yes, it can be overwhelming for other players at times not having families (with them), but everybody bought into it.

“And it was special. We (as rugby players) sacrifice a lot. But our families sacrifice way more. A lot of people don’t know that –they don’t know what our families go through.”

Although he did not witness the last minutes of the World Cup final after receiving a yellow card due to his head being buried in his jersey out of disappointment, Kolbe believed that there was a greater reason.

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He knocked the ball on and copped the card while trying to stop the All Blacks from getting to the tryline.

“I would’ve loved to finish the game. God’s calling for me was to go out in the last eight to 10 minutes and pray. I firmly believe that is where He wanted me to be at that stage,” said Kolbe, who celebrated his 30th birthday on the day of the final.

“I will be honest with you: I did not hear the final whistle blow. One of the management staff came up to me and pulled me on my jersey. That’s when I knew we were taking gold back to South Africa.”

@Leighton_K

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