The sudden emergence of breakthrough player of the year, Aphiwe Dyantyi, has drawn attention away from the fact that Rassie Erasmus has executed the most adroit piece of overseas selection.
The decisions to recall Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux after the Premiership pair returned to form following their fall from international favour would have been comparatively easy calls, but Erasmus’s move to bring Kolbe into the fold - whilst still uncapped - is likely to prove a stroke of genius.
South Africa’s 50% win record from 2018 makes for deceptive reading, with Erasmus overseeing a patient and much-needed restoration project following the 2007 World Cup winners bleak showing under the charge of Allister Coetzee. Between the overseas selections of Kolbe, de Klerk, le Roux, Duane Vermeulen and the return to fitness of former u20 World Cup sensation Handre Pollard at fly-half, South Africa are on the correct path towards a promising 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan.
South Africa’s forwards are proving to be the physically dominant force the world has come to associate with the Springbok name - with no small amount of help from Steven Kitshoff and RG Snyman – and the backline finally consists of a healthy balance of playmakers and strike runners when all are fit and available for selection.
However, for all the praise we can heap upon Erasmus’s side, there is obviously still a way to go. Furthermore, without their Premiership based playmakers or key individuals such as Pollard or Vermeulen they are at serious risk of stagnated performances; and even with all their star players, this South African side could still be prone to stalling on the driveway.
This is where the inspired selection of Kolbe comes into play. Many times throughout the 11-years of Shane Williams’ 84-cap international career, the legendary winger woke Wales from vegetative-like states, cattle prodding his teammates to life with his ability to make something out of nothing. Williams’ impact would go a great deal further than the five or seven points his footwork would inevitably create. The sheer energy the Osprelian’s scores would exude could fire up a team of 15 men in a way no caffeine tablets or freely given energy drinks could, mentally recharging and motivating the collective’s minds at the snap of a finger. Many a Welsh victory can be attributed to Williams’ magical feet.
This is the role Kolbe can serve for the Springboks. South Africa will need this impetus when the going gets tough in Japan. While they are unlikely to come under pressure from anyone in their pool other than two-time reigning World Champions New Zealand, the playoffs will provide a sterner challenge. The Springboks are likely to face either of Scotland or Ireland in the first weekend of knockout rugby, and both Celtic nations have proven themselves worthy advisories, and even immovable objects at times, in recent years.
As witnesses will attest following his outrageous score against Wasps in the Champions Cup over the weekend, Kolbe’s disposition leans towards the superb and outrageous more often than not. In another similarity to Williams, Kolbe has proven himself no slouch in defence and is more than capable in the air despite his 5ft7” stature.
There is no doubt that the overall excellence of Dyantyi will have seen the Lions wing him penned into the starting XV, but a second spot on the opposing side of the field is still up for grabs having been possessed by Kolbe, Sibusiso Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi over the last six months. A jersey that should be, in Erasmus’s mind, firmly in Kolbe’s grip, if is not already.
All great teams have their talisman, a man to bring supporters to their feet cheering and even attract the favour of fans from across the globe. This is the office Kolbe must be allowed to hold for South Africa.