World Cup-winning Springboks speedster Cheslin Kolbe has announced that he would prefer to face the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa next year rather than pursue an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Kolbe, who was part of the South African sevens side that claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had initially intended to compete at the Tokyo event, which has been postponed until next year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, the delay of the event has led to a scheduling clash between the Lions tour and the Olympics, with Springboks’ three-test series and the sevens tournament both set to take place between late July and early August.
South Africa’s first test against the Lions kicks off at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on July 24, which will be followed by further clashes at Cape Town Stadium on July 31 and at Ellis Park back in Johannesburg on August 7.
The opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, meanwhile, is scheduled to take place on July 23 and August 8, with the men’s sevens tournament set to be played between July 30 and August 1.
The three-test Springboks series acts as the only opportunity Kolbe would get to face the Lions next year, as he doesn’t play for any of the South African Super Rugby sides and would likely be considered too good for the South Africa ‘A’ and South Africa ‘Invitational’ sides that all have fixtures on the tour.
As the Lions only visits South Africa once every 12 years, the electric Toulouse star has been forced to weigh up his options next year, but it appears the 2019 Top 14 player of the year has finalised his decision.
“It’s a tough decision but I would definitely choose taking on the British and Irish Lions,” he told Planet Rugby.
“Although I would love to play sevens for my country at the Tokyo Olympics, to be part of a British and Irish Lions series is a goal I really want to achieve and I would like to be a part of that because it only happens every 12 years.
“Next year would be my only chance to face them, if I do get selected [for the Springboks], as I won’t be around for their next tour so I would definitely go for that option.”
The Lions, who drew their most recent series against the All Blacks in 2017, will be coached by Warren Gatland for a third successive campaign, and will kick-off their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3.
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