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‘A new chapter and challenge’: Springbok Cheslin Kolbe signs for new club

By Finn Morton
South Africa's Cheslin Kolbe. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rugby World Cup winning Springbok Cheslin Kolbe has officially signed for Suntory Sungoliath in the Japanese Rugby League One competition.

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Earlier this week, South African websites reported that the electric outside back was set to sign a big-money deal with the Tokyo-based club. Kolbe has also been linked with a return to the Stormers.

But following weeks of rumours and speculation, Suntory Sungoliath confirmed that Kolbe had signed for the Japanese heavyweights from the 2023/24 season.

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“I’m so excited to confirm I will be joining Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in the Japan Rugby League One competition after this year’s World Cup,” Kolbe said in a statement.

“This is going to be a new chapter and challenge in my career, and I’d like to thank everyone who made the move possible.

“Suntory is a team with an impressive history, and I am looking forward to making new memories with the team over the seasons ahead.

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“To the fans, I hope to put in some performance that you can all enjoy. See you soon!”

According to multiple reports, Kolbe was linked with a staggering R18 million ($1.5m NZD) per season deal with the Japanese club – although this hasn’t been confirmed by the club.

Kolbe recently helped European heavyweights Toulon win the Challenge Cup, but mutually agreed to part ways with the French club.

“The entire RCT team wishes Cheslin Kolbe the best for the future and an excellent Rugby World Cup, which he will prepare with the Springboks at the RCT Campus,” Toulon wrote on their website.

“Cheslin Kolbe will be honoured during the end-of-season Garden Parties.”

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In a statement, Kolbe said that he “would have liked to stay” with the club.

“I would like to thank the club, my team-mates and all the supporters for the opportunity given to me to play in Toulon during the two seasons and which I appreciated very much,” he said.

“I would have liked to stay in Toulon but the financial constraints of the clubs and the injuries made things difficult.”

Suntory have quite a talented squad, which included former Wallaby Sean McMahon and Australian lock Harry Hockings last season.

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Elsewhere in the competition, other World Cup winning Springboks are playing for rivals teams – including Malcolm Marx, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk.

Springbok and former South African sevens representative Kwagga Smith was recently named the competitions Player of the Year, and included in the dream team.

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