By Lucky Maree
Is Cheslin Kolbe coming back to Western Province?
It’s a very sad answer to a simple question. The answer is, no!
John Dobson has come out to say that the chances that Cheslin Kolbe, one of the great wings in South African rugby history and one of the best wings playing international rugby at the moment, is not coming back to South Africa.
Kolbe has ended his contract with French club Toulon a year ahead of the contract expiring and the club has released him. This means that the brilliant wing who is also very comfortable at fullback will have half the world’s club’s knocking at his door – but Western Province is not in the hunt for his signature.
Dobson, in an interview with Cape Talk as reported in SA RugbyMag, has said that Province don’t have the money to pay the lad raised in Kraaifontein, Cape Town.
“They came back to use with a number probably the size of the GDP of Lesotho and we are under administration,” Dobson said.
It seems very likely that Kolbe will find a club in Japan that can afford to pay the money the player can command.
Dobson himself has played an enormous part in keeping Western Province Rugby Union alive in spite of the union being on its knees, probably through bad administration.
The South African economy is not exactly a place conducive to developing or maintaining a profitable business. It’s tough out there. Successful businesses need tough, seasoned business managers to keep clubs going. Sorry to say, but tough, seasoned rugby players seldom make innovative financial managers.
Dobson and Co seem to have stumbled on a working slogan. “Keep Cape Town Smiling” has touched the hearts of the people of the city, whether they are rugby followers on not. What a spectacular sight it was to see the stadium packed with fans – and all the way to the top tier, too!
But Province is still in trouble and they are one of the better unions.
It highlights a bigger problem that faces all rugby unions in the country and indeed the world.
Harlequins in England are in hock to the tune of £48 million (R1.1 billion), Exeter owe £28 million (R682 million). Not surprisingly their operation is described as “an unsustainable model”.
And good luck to Kolbe! Nice work if you can get it – and he can get it and he should take it but it highlights the situation in all of local rugby.
When it comes to competing with the euro, the pound and the yen, the South African rand comes out on the lightweight side. No wonder that, in their droves, players from South Africa are signing contracts to play overseas.
The only thing that counter-balances that sad reality, is the genuine culture and love of the game that South Africans have.
From that point of view it is miraculous that South African franchises can still compete (not always totally successfully) in competitions like the United Rugby Championship and the Heineken Champions Cup.
And then we still, thank heavens, have Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber.
As rugby coaches they have performed at the top level. As managers of people they have been in a class of their own. Players from all over the world will wear the Springbok jersey in September.
And the Springboks are still, along with France, Ireland and New Zealand, considered to one of the teams that can win the World Cup in France in September.
South African rugby, as seen by Cheslin Kolbe’s probable move to Japan and not Western Province, is not in great shape. But we still have a World Cup to win. It’s a miracle that we can – but we can.
Pictured above: Cheslin Kolbe – Too expensive for Province