South African superstar’s absence spells disaster ahead of Lions series
South Africa look like they will be without Cheslin Kolbe for one of their two pre-British and Irish Lions warm-up Tests against Georgia.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber cast doubt this week over the 2019 World Rugby player of the year nominee’s chances of making the first warm-up Test against Georgia in Pretoria on Friday July 2 after his club side Toulouse made the Top 14 final in France.
Toulouse face La Rochelle at the Stade de France this Friday, exactly one week before the Springboks play their first match since the 2019 World Cup final. That more or less rules out Kolbe from playing as well as compatriot Rynhardt Elstadt, who both started in the semi-final victory over Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday.
This may not be too great a concern if the Springboks had not had such a long period without playing. The team will undoubtedly be rusty and in order to ensure they are gelling and at full capacity come the first Test against the Lions on July 24, Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will want his first XV, which Kolbe will surely be a part of, playing together as much as possible.
Speaking at an online briefing on Monday, Nienaber said:
“Rynhardt and Cheslin are playing in the Top 14 final. I am not sure, but I heard that it might be on Friday night. They will then only be getting their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday, after the final.
“They will probably fly after that, hopefully getting into South Africa either on Monday or Tuesday. We will be playing that Friday, so I think, as I am currently aware, that will leave them very little time to get back into the mix and our way of doing things.
“Personally, I believe it will be a tough ask for them to play against Georgia, the first Test match. I must also stress that there are selectors who will have a say in that. They might also be able to get here earlier, so logistically there might be things that change.”