One-on-one with Michael R. Yormark: Kolbe was 'not' about the money
Cheslin Kolbe’s move to Japan was preceded by plenty of gossip and hearsay, much of which had more bricks than bouquets.
Last week Sungoliath confirmed that the 29-year-old Springbok star will be joining them from the 2023/2024 season.
Kolbe had dominated headlines with reports suggesting the Stormers offered the player a “mega deal” to join them.
However, Western Province Rugby released a statement revealing that the Cape Town franchise made no formal offer to Kolbe or his representatives.
This all followed after Kolbe ended his time at Toulon – after producing a man-of-the-match performance in the recent Challenge Cup Final against Glasgow Warriors before featuring in the club’s season-ending Top 14 encounter against Bordeaux at the end of May.
@king365ed sat down with Michael R. Yormark, President of Roc Nation Sports International, to unpack the reasons behind the decision of Springbok Cheslin Kolbe to sign with Japanese outfit @sungoliath.
Yormark said Kolbe, having spent the last six years in France (Toulouse and then Toulon), was due for a change of scenery – not only from a rugby perspective, but also from a cultural perspective.
“This opportunity in Japan was unique for him,” Yormark told @rugby365com.
“He has accomplished everything he could in France,” the Roc Nation boss said, adding: “For him, it is a new challenge.
“It is an opportunity to experience a different culture that he is really looking forward to.
“He is super excited about being in Japan for the next couple of seasons.
“We will explore other opportunities afterwards.”
Asked about the huge amounts hurled around in various media reports, Yormark said it is ‘never’ about the money when Roc Nation decides where to move their players.
“Ultimately there are a lot of factors that go into any career decision,” he said about how they decide where to place players.
“Obviously money is a factor and that is important, because a player’s career is very short.
“Any player must look to maximise his or her potential from a monetary perspective. However, it is also about the opportunity.
“Where is the team based? What is the history of the team? What does it [the team] provide you and your family beyond the compensation.”
He said France was a wonderful opportunity for the entire Kolbe family.
“It was an opportunity to experience a different culture, and live in a different part of the world and it was terrific.
“He [Cheslin] made great friends there, Layla [his wife] has made great friends.”
Yormark said Japan now offers similar opportunities to the Kolbe family.
“They will experience a different culture and learn a different language.
“It is important that the contract is strong from a monetary standpoint.
“However, equally important is what the entire opportunity provides the player – both on the field and off the field.
“There are going to be some off-the-field opportunities to be taken advantage of also and we are looking forward to that.”
Yormark said South Africa remains Kolbe’s home and at some point, he will settle back into life in the Republic.
“As an agency, it is very important for us to not just look at the moment, but also to maximise his career and future beyond the game,” he told @rugby365com.
“Be that Siyamthanda Kolisi, the Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] or Cheslin, that is the approach we take with every player.
“It is not just about the moment.
“When Cheslin finishes his career, and he starts thinking about the next chapter in his life, we want him to be in a position to make that decision based on what he wants to do – NOT what he has to do!
“The only way we can put him in a position to make a decision based on what he wants to do, is to ensure we are planning for life after rugby.”
Cheslin Kolbe – mini bio
Full name: Cheslin
Date of birth: 28 October 1993
Springbok no: 911
Debut Test team: Stade Toulousain
Current age: 29
First Test: 8 Sep 2018 Age: 24 (replacement) against Australia at Lang Park, Brisbane
Last Test: 19 Nov 2022 Age: 29 (right wing) against Italy at Luigi Ferraris Stadium, Genoa