TOULOUSE, France (AFP) – South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe returns to Toulouse for the first time since his World Cup winning heroics today with teammates relieved “to have him with us rather than against us”.
The 26-year-old is lined up to face Montpellier in the European Champions Cup, a little more than a month after scoring a try in the Springboks’ World Cup final victory over England in Japan.
Kolbe only resumed training on Monday but his importance to four-time European champions Toulouse cannot be under-estimated.
As well as being a World Cup and Rugby Championship winner, Kolbe was recently voted Top 14 Player of the Year after helping Toulouse to the domestic title last season.
“We feel much stronger with him,” said French international prop Cyril Baille.
Fly-half star Romain Ntamack added, “With the autumn that he has had, with all these titles, he has a real dynamism, a joy of life.
“Are we stronger with him? Well, it’s certain that we prefer to have him with us rather than against us.”
Kolbe, who stands at just 1.70m and weighs in at 80kg, is a huge crowd favourite at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.
When taking his seat in the stands alongside his wife and daughter at recent home games against Connacht and Bayonne, fans screamed his name every time his image flashed on the TV screens.
“Kolbe, Kolbe,” they shouted as memories flooded back of similar vociferous adoration reserved for former expat favourite Byron Kelleher in the 2007-2008 title season.