He’s already a fan favourite at Newlands for the Stormers, and now Cheslin Kolbe is hoping the Springbok Sevens can “draw energy” from local supporters for this weekend’s Cape Town Sevens.
Kolbe, who turned 22 in October, will be the key playmaker for the Blitzbokke in the second round of the World Rugby Sevens Series at the Cape Town Stadium after the experienced Cecil Afrika was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in Dubai.
Afrika hobbled off in the first Dubai match against Samoa, which saw Kolbe step up from scrumhalf duties to being the main strategist for the Blitzbokke on attack.
He did play flyhalf at school for Brackenfell High, so initiating play and creating space for the likes of Seabelo Senatla and Justin Geduld out wide shouldn’t be too unfamiliar for Kolbe.
But the pressure is on the South Africans after they went down to USA in the Cup quarter-final, which saw them relegated to the Plate competition, which they won, so Kolbe will have to produce the goods in front of an expected 55 000 capacity crowd at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s big shoes (of Afrika) to fill! He’s been a guy who’s been here for quite a few seasons, and I can still learn a lot in the game and I get a lot of advice from Cecil too – he knows the game in and out,” Kolbe told Independent Media ahead of the Cape Town Sevens kickoff on Saturday.
“It’s a lot of responsibility for me as a player, but with that, there’s a lot of freedom. I’ve got experienced guys around me, which will help me make the right calls for the team.
“It took a lot of character last week, knowing that we expected more from ourselves and our team. But in life, momentum is going to be stopped somehow, but it’s just about how you react to it. Coming into this week, it’s a new challenge and fresh start for us.
“We can just take the disappointment from last week and know how it felt, not going into the Cup final, and let that motivate us for this week.”
While the Blitzbokke first have to negotiate getting through Pool B on Saturday, where they face Zimbabwe, Kenya and Dubai Cup finalists England, the South Africans could square off with the surprise-package Americans (Pool C) once again, as the winners and runners-up of Pool B and C have been drawn to face each other in the Cup quarter-finals.
The USA beat the mighty New Zealand Sevens side twice in Dubai as well, so they are serious contenders this season – not only for the Sevens Series title, but also at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But Kolbe says taking revenge on the Americans is not on the Blitzbokke’s minds. “Last week they beat us, but we are not going to get disappointed by that. We take every game and approach it in the same way. So I don’t think we are going to be arrogant and tell the people out there that ‘We owe them one’. But we will do our best to win each and every game, and make our teammates, coach and nation proud,” he said.
“It’s a different approach and a different environment. Just coming to Cape Town, knowing the vibe and atmosphere, playing in Cape Town for the Stormers… For the Sevens, everybody will pitch up, everybody will cheer for the team, and I am sure we can draw energy from our supporters.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity, just going out this weekend and embracing the crowd.”
* Follow @IndyCapeSport on Twitter and visit www.iol.co.za for live updates and reports of the Springbok Sevens matches on Saturday and Sunday, as well as results of other key matches and off-field action at the Cape Town Sevens.
BLITZBOKKE FIXTURES ON SATURDAY
Original source: Kolbe: Blitzbokke don’t owe USA