'I'm not sure what the reason is': Cheslin Kolbe's staggering comparison about World Cup and European final nerves
World Cup-winning Springboks winger Cheslin Kolbe has revealed he is feeling more nervous ahead of this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Toulouse than he felt in the build-up to the November 2019 decider when the eyes of the world were watching South Africa versus England clash in Yokohama.
That showpiece 18 months ago ended with Rassie Erasmus’ team defeating Eddie Jones’ English outfit following a build-up in which the Springboks were erroneously viewed as the underdogs because England had dethroned the 2015 cup-winning All Blacks in the semi-finals.
The little South African winger went on to score a try in that final, sealing a third-ever World Cup title for the Springboks. However, while that should have been the highest pressured occasion of his career, Kolbe has let slip that he is finding the build-up to this weekend’s all-French clash for Toulouse versus La Rochelle in London a more nervous affair for a reason he can’t quite explain.
The 27-year-old, who has been capped 14 times for his country, said: “I was fortunate enough to play in a few finals and funnily enough I just spoke to my wife last night [Tuesday] and said for some reason the final coming up this weekend just feels much more nerve-wracking than the final I have played in the World Cup.
“I’m not too sure what the reason is for that. I know it is two great teams in France coming up against each other and the nerves, the butterflies are really starting to show, but that is a good sign as well. I just need to make sure that I prepare well throughout the week before we leave for England and I hopefully can calm down the nerves by the preparation that we have put in.”
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Asked to elaborate further on what might be going on, Kolbe admitted the weight of history might be playing its part as Toulouse are seeking to become the first club to ever win five European Cups, a trophy they haven’t lifted since their fourth title success in 2010. “It’s probably a bit of the long wait for Toulouse not getting the fifth star. There is a bit of not pressure but a lot of expectations from the public, from the club and a bit of pressure on us as players to hopefully try and create history by putting that fifth star onto the jersey.
“I definitely won’t say that is going to be the main focus. We just need to focus on the processes in the game but I definitely do think the eleven years waiting for the fifth star and then the bit of pressure we have as players to try and make history as well does play a bit – but it’s a good thing for us. We have an opportunity to make history with this phenomenal group, so I’m looking forward to that.
“Coming into the final it is not going to be the team that pulls out the best trick on the day, it is going to be the team that is going to be detailed throughout the week and focus on the plan the coaches want us to implement – it is going to be the team that implements that the best on the day.
“It is going to be a game where discipline in defence is going to be one of the key factors. We need to just focus on our detail, just focus on our plan and just implement it to the best of our abilities and whenever there are opportunities within the structure to capitalise we need to also bring out our own natural ability towards the game to hopefully crack it open.”
Expected to be selected in the Springboks squad to face the Lions in July, Kolbe added: “It’s definitely massive. The group that Warren Gatland has got together is an all-round fantastic team upfront, the backline players have got big boys with an ability to carry and guys on the wing who are willing to run all over the field.
“It is definitely going to be a great opportunity, a lot of excitement for me. It will definitely be a highlight in my career and something I will definitely love to be a part of. But first things first, we have got a final this week and that is where all my focus and energy will be invested.”
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