Scrap SA's 30 cap rule: An argument for Cheslin Kolbe
OPINION: Currently, the Springboks have a 30-cap ruling for South African-born players who ply their rugby overseas, making anyone with less than 30 Test caps ineligible to become a Bok.
The ruling makes sense when you talk about the player drain, with South Africa being one of the worst affected nations in world rugby. It’s an attempt to quell the tide of the countless potential Springboks leaving their shores.
One such player is Cheslin Kolbe who without question is one of South African rugby’s brightest stars, but with no Springbok caps to date - which means he is ineligible for the national team.
Mark Keohane, in an article for Sport24, posed the question as to whether South Africa should scrap their current criteria for caps on overseas players.
French media have declared him the Top14’s greatest foreign import and head coach Ugo Mola described Kolbe as a player who fills stadia due to his attacking brilliance.
Both Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee, however, overlooked the utility back due to what they deem as a lack of physicality.
While the 24-year-old may only be 75kg, when you looked at the defensive frailties this season of a player like Raymond Rhule that argument becomes ludicrous.
The Springboks coaching staff have for too long relied on big lumbersome backs and their one-dimensional attack has been exposed in the last two seasons.
Kolbe’s size is similar to that of a Damian McKenzie for the AllBlacks and while there are aspects of his game he will want to tighten up, the All Blacks decided that his positivity in attack outweighed any vulnerabilities relating to size.
At fullback in 2017, the Boks persisted with Andries Coetzee, the reason given was that he played error-free rugby. This would become somewhat ironic after his litany of errors against Wales in the season finale.
Error-free rugby shouldn’t be the only criteria for a fullback but the vision isn’t there to pick an electrifying attacking player if he isn’t at least 90kg.
Realistically the player drain will not be plugged by a Springboks cap limit, it has more to do with economics than rugby.
Is it time to abolish a cap limit, allowing players like Kolbe to wear the green and gold and move Springboks rugby into a positive place before the World Cup in Japan next year, because it’s not too late.
Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time until Kolbe lights up yet another jersey when he runs out for France and another South African talent is lost forever.