Admitting it is one of the toughest calls he has had to make in his career, Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe says he will turn down a potential opportunity to appear at the Olympic Games next year, in order to face the might of the British and Irish Lions.
The postponed Tokyo Games will now be held from July 23 to August 7 next year, while the Lions’ tour will start on July 3 when they face the Stormers in Cape Town. The third and final Test against the Boks is set to be played on August 7 at Ellis Park.
“It’s a tough decision but I would definitely choose taking on the British and Irish Lions,” the 26-year-old Kolbe told Planet Rugby.
“Although I would love to play Sevens for my country at the Tokyo Olympics, to be part of a British and Irish Lions series is a goal I really want to achieve.”
“I would like to be a part of that because it only happens every 12 years (that they tour South Africa).”
Kolbe, who scored the Boks’ final try in last year’s World Cup final against England in Japan, has worked his way into the heart of South African rugby fans by punching above his weight, scoring eight tries for the Boks in 14 Tests since his debut in 2018.
He felt the Lions tour was such a rare opportunity that he could not pass on it.
“Next year will be my only chance to face them, if I do get selected, as I won’t be around for their next tour (in 2033, when he will be 38) so I would definitely go for that option,” he said.
Kolbe, who has played 46 games for Western Province in the Currie Cup
and boasts 49 caps for the Stormers, has turned out 48 times for French club Toulouse since late 2017.
At the moment, however, he is stuck in the Western Cape due to border restrictions.
“I came to South Africa early in March as I had to take a break after the Rugby World Cup,” he explained.
“Initially it was a two-week holiday as it was my daughter’s birthday and my wife’s birthday was also coming up.
“So I decided to come to Cape Town to spend time with my family, and luckily enough I’ve spent some extra time here due to the Covid-19 lockdown.”