The Springboks will be counting on Cheslin Kolbe’s versatility in the case of an injury at scrum-half, with the dynamic winger geared up to reproduce his 2019 heroics in the Rugby World Cup final tomorrow.
Kolbe has been named to start on the left wing in the final against the All Blacks in Paris, but will carry an extra responsibility after the Bok coaches pulled a surprise by naming seven replacement forwards and just one backline player – veteran full-back Willie le Roux – on the bench.
The Boks used the seven-one split in the pool-stage match against Ireland and the record warm-up win over New Zealand at Twickenham, but on both occasions could call on speedy scrum-half Cobus Reinach from the bench.
“In our case, it will be Cheslin,” Nienaber revealed, when asked about the back-up scrum-half.
“He played sweeper in sevens which is the equivalent to scrum-half. He has always been a guy who, if we got a yellow card, would be the stand-in half-back, not just this week but for a couple of weeks.”
De Klerk is unbothered by the potential of having to see out the entire final, half-joking that loose forward Kwagga Smith could also provide support if he pulls up.
“Not really,” De Klerk said on whether being asked to potentially play 80 minutes changes his approach. “We’ve played like this before and I’ve played a lot of 80-minute games in my life. If you’re going to pace yourself, you’re going to lose this game.
“Luckily, we’ve got Kwagga covering nine as well, as he doesn’t get tired, so that’s fine. Cheslin’s also been training there, so we’ve got back-up, but hopefully, I can be there at the end when we win. I just have to make sure I’m recovered well for the game.”
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The man who scored the try that sealed the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Kolbe has stood tall for the Springboks in France, scoring a try and producing a crucial conversion charge-down in the quarter-final win over the tournament hosts.
“He is a great guy, we have been friends for quite a while,” De Klerk said. “We have a similar thing where throughout his career people have said he is too small to play this game but I think he quickly showed that is not the case.
“He is an unbelievable player and guy. He works unbelievably hard and doesn’t have a doubt in his ability at all. He will take on anyone, anywhere, any place and he will probably come out on top.
“I think everyone feels when he gets the ball something special is going to happen and more often than not it does.”
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