Sunday, when the Springboks arrive in Dublin, Cheslin Kolbe will not be present.
Typically, the French-based speedster would travel directly from his club to the Bok camp prior to a European Test, but this time he must fulfill his obligations for Toulon.
Kolbe, who turned 29 on Friday, will instead play for his team in a French Top 14 match against Bordeaux on the road late Sunday night (10.05pm SA time kickoff).
Therefore, he won’t be able to train with the national team on Monday. He will likely arrive in Dublin late in the afternoon on Monday.
The good news, however, is that Kolbe “will be available for selection for the (Ireland) Test” despite the usual policy that players who are unable to participate in a Monday practice would not be included in the weekend’s match-23. Rassie Erasmus, the director of rugby, informed Independent Media in response to an inquiry that Kolbe “will be available for selection for the (Ireland) Test. After his (Toulon) match, he will join us as soon as possible.
And the former Stormers star may line up in a different position on his return to the Bok team against the Irish in Saturday’s match at Aviva Stadium (7:30pm SA time kickoff), having missed the Rugby Championship with a broken jaw.
Due to the unavailability of Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, and Frans Steyn, Damian Willemse is now the first-choice flyhalf for the end-of-year trip, leaving a vacancy at fullback.
The seasoned Willie le Roux would typically return to the starting XV, but with the Boks seeking a more nimble and flexible No. 15 moving forward – which is why Willemse became the No. 1 fullback this season – the coaches have a variety of choices.
“It is impossible to reduce the World Cup squad to 33 players. Now that we’re facing the number one and number two teams in the world, I know you can’t take chances,” Erasmus said following the squad announcement on Friday.
“However, these are the genuine games in which you might do something similar. Why not play Cheslin at 15 if Kurt-Lee Arendse and Makazole Mapimpi are in top form and Damian is playing at 10? I am not claiming that will occur…
“Kurt-Lee can also play 15 for us, and there are a few players in the SA A group who can do so as well” (as well). However, Kolbe is a viable alternative to play 15.”
Imagine a defensive trio of Kolbe, Arendse, and Mapimpi. The attacking options are limitless with such a trio, since each player possesses electrifying speed, excellent decision-making, and deft sidesteps.
But they also lack nothing in the defense sector, since they have all demonstrated a willingness to get their hands dirty.
Such a decision would give a totally new challenge to the Irish, who would anticipate the Boks to take a conservative approach and begin with Le Roux.
Even in inclement circumstances, the home team is adept at deploying its possession-based attacking strategy.
Erasmus, who was in charge of Munster for a few years, noted on Friday that it rains nearly every day in Ireland at this time of year, and that rain is predicted for Dublin for the entirety of the Boks’ stay in the capital.
Oh, and Kolbe, who frequently played fullback for the Stormers, is also viewed as one of the backup flyhalves, so the South Africans could be even more slippery with the ball in hand…