Sat, 30 May 2020

Kolbe's kingsize headache: Olympics v Lions tour

31 Mar 2020, 18:13 GMT+10

Springbok superstar Cheslin Kolbe has been left with the biggest dilemma of his career considering the sudden, glaring clash between the Tokyo Olympic Games and British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2021.

Although it will remain "Tokyo 2020" for marketing purposes, it was confirmed on Monday that the Games will be pushed back a year due to the global coronavirus pandemic - putting the massive event on a direct collision course with the keenly-awaited Lions tour in rugby union.

The new Games schedule will run from 23 July to 8 August next year: almost identical to the Lions tour dates in South Africa, with the cream of activity being the three Tests at the business end between 24 July and 7 August at FNB Stadium, Cape Town Stadium and Ellis Park respectively.

Kolbe, who scored the electric, final Bok try in the 32-12 World Cup final thrashing of England at RWC 2019 and was one of the most talked-about names throughout the tournament, has already put on record that he would like to be part of the SA Sevens mix for another assault on Olympic gold.

He was part of the South African squad who earned bronze on Rugby Sevens' debut at the Rio Olympics in 2016; the Blitzboks lost 7-5 to Great Britain in a semi-final but went on to trounce Japan 54-14 in the bronze playoff match.

But Kraaifontein-born Kolbe's revelation also came before he knew that the Olympics would be pushed back a year, and right into a simultaneous staging with the Lions tour.

The Boks, as with the All Blacks and Wallabies, only get to play the Lions every 12 years and it is one of the most prestigious rugby events on the planet.

Kolbe, currently 26 and a crowd favourite on the books of Toulouse in France, would almost certainly have only have one chance to take part in a Boks v Lions series.

By contrast, he already has one experience of Olympic Sevens, and if he chose to sidestep 2021 could feasibly still be a contender for the SA squad at the 2024 Games in Paris, when he would be 30 and quite possibly at the very peak of his game.

Nevertheless, Olympic lustre runs deep in his family: he is a cousin of track gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk.

The Games could present a poser for a few other Springbok/South African 15-man stars, as the presence of a Sevens component is an attractive, temporary lure for some of them.

When South Africa played in the Rio Olympic Sevens, their squad included renowned "crossover" players like Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Rosko Specman, Seabelo Senatla, Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard.

But the knowledge that the Lions will tour our shores next year could put more than just Kolbe in with a major personal head-scratcher.

The Boks last entertained them, with their huge travelling support base (something that should be unaltered despite the Games clash) in 2009, when they edged out the enthralling series 2-1.

More Japan News

Access More

Sign up for The Japan News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!