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'The plan was always to prepare him as back-up for Willie'

By Ian Cameron
Cheslin Kolbe during the South Africa captain's run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Springboks have admitted that they have long planned for Cheslin Kolbe to switch to fullback as ‘back up’ to incumbent sweeper Willie Le Roux.

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Kolbe has been named at 15 for the Ireland game, the first time he has played there for the Springboks. The fleet-footed back hasn’t featured for the Boks since the third Test of their summer series against Wales back in July.

The dangerous strike runner can normally be found on the wing at Test level, but his versatility has long been put to good use in France, where he has played 10 and 15 for both Toulouse and Toulon.

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Kolbe has struggled with a string of injuries in recent seasons. The 29-year-old’s most recent issue was a broken jaw sustained when attempting a tackle on Welsh back row Josh Navidi.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, is upbeat at the return of Kolbe, undoubtedly one of the most world rugby’s most lethal attacking weapons. What’s more, Stick claims that Kolbe’s move to fullback has been in the pipes for some time, as Jacques Nienaber looks to place him at the centre of a deadly back three alongside Makazole Mapimpi and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

“It’s good to have Cheslin back – he’s a world class player, he is skillful, he has a big heart, and we know what he can do,” said Stick. “The plan was always to prepare him as back-up for Willie, and if you look at the experience between him and Makazole Mapimpi and what Kurt-Lee brings, we have a good balance in the back three, and we’re excited to see what they can do.”

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South Africa wrapped up their on-field preparations on Friday afternoon with their traditional captain’s run at the Aviva.  The Boks are looking to avenge a humiliating 38-3 defeat suffered against Ireland in 2017, the last time the two sides met. It was the third-heaviest defeat in their history.

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