Cheslin Kolbe: Dynamite comes in small packages

Size isn't everything. Even for the Springboks.

Cheslin Kolbe: Dynamite comes in small packages

Size isn't everything. Even for the Springboks.

Rated, along with England, as the biggest and baddest side at this World Cup, South Africa were expected to throw their weight about and trample opponents underfoot.

It didn't quite work out that way in their opener against New Zealand but not for the want of trying.

The blitz directed at the All Blacks in that first quarter in Yokohama was astonishing but if anyone stood out in a green jersey that evening then it was the pint-sized Cheslin Kolbe whose pace and trickery took the breath away with a couple of penetrating and flummoxing runs.

Kolbe stands less than 5' 7” in height but he is not the only speedster at this tournament giving lie to the theory that rugby is no longer a game for all shapes and sizes.

Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima have lit up the touchlines for Japan.

Neither of them are close to six-foot tall.

"There is a saying going around that dynamite comes in small packages,” said Kolbe who is fit to face Japan in Sunday's quarter-final after recovering from a hamstring injury.

“We all have something special we can contribute to our teams.

“Both Japanese wingers are playing phenomenal rugby and that is what we have to do as players for our national teams, just to do the best that we can on the field. For me, it’s about giving as much momentum as possible for our forwards to keep going on the front foot."

This must all be sweet for a man who felt he had no option but to move abroad for the good of his career because of the suspicion back home that he was just too small to make it in the pro game. A revelation at Toulouse, he has starred for the Blitz Boks at the 2016 Olympic games as well.

Now he is lighting up the greatest stage of them all.

It was in Rio that he came across Fukuoka, who he describes as powerful and explosive, and he has previous with the Pretoria-born Matsushima stretching back to 2012 when the pair were up-and-coming prospects playing Currie Cup rugby in South Africa.

“I know what type of player he is. I know he loves to run with the ball and just have a lot of freedom.”

It's just over a month now since these two sides met in one last tournament warm-up.

Kolbe scored two of his side's six tries that day in Kumagaya, when the stain of their defeat to the Asian side in the last World Cup was in some way eradicated, but that was then.

Japan have exploded into life at this World Cup and Kolbe went beyond the normal platitudes to point out how they have improved in specific departments, their line speed in defence and the manner in which they attack the breakdown being two of them.

But it is their play with ball in hand that has bewitched a nation.

Japan are playing exciting rugby. They are giving the ball a lot of air and want to stretch your defensive structures. It’s a style I love to play as well but we have our own structures and a plan we want to implement, especially this weekend, and cut down their options at some stages to force them into some structure.

It promises to be a memorable occasion. Japan has been gripped by the Brave Blossoms. Over 50 million people watched the defeat of Scotland on TV and the Springbok scrum-half Heschel Jantjies has touched on how hard it will be for them to even communicate amid the din at the weekend.

South Africa have been as smitten as any of the teams or other visitors to Japan this last month and more but they would dearly love to bring a halt to the hysteria and progress to a semi-final with full recompense finally claimed for that almighty shock suffered in Brighton in 2015.

"Knowing we had the 2015 loss to Japan ... I wouldn’t say it’s stuck in our head, but we know that it happened,” said Kolbe.

“But it’s four years later and a new opportunity for us and we just have to keep building week by week against every team.

“This week that is Japan in the quarter-final. We will make sure that we are really well prepared and ready to implement what the coaches gave us to work on during the week and not have what happened in 2015 at the back of our heads.”

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