Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

2009 Lions tour fuelled Cheslin Kolbe's love of rugby

Cheslin Kolbe

Cheslin Kolbe says the British and Irish Lions’ 2009 tour of South Africa made him fall “more and more in love with the game”.


Springboks star Kolbe, who lines up for Toulouse in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle at Twickenham, was a 15-year-old schoolboy when South Africa and the Lions fought out a memorable Test series.

The Springboks clinched it 2-1, and World Cup-winning wing Kolbe is set to be a pivotal part of their bid for a repeat performance this summer.

Video Spacer

Spirit of Rugby – Ep 2

Video Spacer

Spirit of Rugby – Ep 2

“2009 was the first time I ever got my provincial colours back home, and that was the same year when the British and Irish Lions toured South Africa,” he said.

“I was always in love with the game, but that’s when I definitely fell more and more in love with the game.

“Just watching it on television, the majority of supporters in the stadiums were wearing red jerseys and the atmosphere all around was insane. I have never seen South Africa as crazy as what it was back in 2009.

“It (the Lions tour) comes every 12 years, and for us as players you definitely want to give yourself an opportunity to be a part of that group, and just make sure that you keep performing week in and week out to showcase to the coaches and the selectors back in South Africa.”


Kolbe scored a try when South Africa beat England 32-12 in the World Cup final 18 months ago, but the Springboks have not played since, amid the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions.

“It has been a year and a half now without any international rugby, and I am actually quite excited to see how the boys are going to be going,” he added.

“I know once you pull on that green and gold jersey, you just leave everything out on the field, and I am sure that once the group has been announced we will definitely have good preparation leading up to the Lions tour.”

Kolbe could end the summer by completing a significant treble of World Cup, European Cup and a Test series victory over the Lions.


But all his current focus is on Toulouse’s Twickenham challenge and a possible record fifth European title, 25 years after they were inaugural tournament winners and 11 years on from their last triumph.

Kolbe’s box-office quality on the sport’s biggest stages make him a key weapon in Toulouse’s attempt to collect another European crown and nudge one ahead of Irish heavyweights Leinster.

“I must say the players and the coaching staff just backed me all the way,” he added.

“They just gave me the freedom to play what is in front of me, and Toulouse has definitely played a massive part in my success throughout the years.”

And Kolbe admits that sometimes he is not sure what is going to happen next when it comes to his phenomenal game-breaking ability.

“To be honest, most of it is probably pure instinct,” he said.

“Sometimes, I am not too sure what I am going to be doing – my body just completely takes over.

“At times, I do look at the body language or the way defenders approach me whenever I have the ball, whether I have to step to the inside or just keep going on the outside, or just swerve completely infield.

“To be honest with you, sometimes after a game, I just look at clips or analyse the way I’ve played and sometimes I ask myself how did I get out of trouble?”


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

12 Go to comments
Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
FEATURE Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink