Sat, 16 Jan 2021

Advice to Cheslin: Lions above Olympics!

02 Apr 2020, 00:12 GMT+10

Skip the rugby sevens at the pushed-back Tokyo Olympics ... have another go when Paris 2024 comes around.

That is the advice of a cross-formats expert to Cheslin Kolbe - and potentially one or two others - in wrestling the dilemma of whether to prioritise the British and Irish Lions tour of 2021 or the now clashing, rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo next year.

Like Kolbe, former Western Province flyhalf Vlok Cilliers, currently the kicking consultant to the French national team, has represented both the SA Sevens team and Springboks themselves.

He says he has "enormous sympathy" for the World Cup 2019-winning Bok wing hero, following the revelation that the intended 2020 Olympics have been postponed for a year due to the global coronavirus crisis, putting the Games on a direct collision course in late July and early August 2021 with the three-Test portion of the Lions' visit to South Africa.

"It is a horrible clash ... unbelievable," said Cilliers.

"I think you will see a few other cases next year of sporting events falling on top of each other because of (backlogs), but usually not to this sort of extent.

"If I was the guy in Cheslin's shoes, I would opt for the Lions challenge; the big three southern hemisphere powers only get a Lions tour once every 12 years, so some players will go a whole career without getting the chance to play them.

"The Lions is a really unique experience for rugby players, something all off them in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa dream of being involved in.

"He is 26 now, so would be around 38 by the time the Lions travel to South Africa again - almost certainly too late in his career then.

"But he could still be well good enough, by contrast, to play for (the Blitzboks) aged around the 30-mark in two Olympics' time at the Paris Games."

Cilliers said the fact that Kolbe already had Olympic experience, having earned bronze for the SA Sevens side at the maiden event at the Rio Games (2016), should further help sway his decision toward representing the Boks against the Lions.

"I can't see Kolbe not being part of the Bok plans over the course of the next couple of years, especially considering the way he has resumed his career for Toulouse since the World Cup win.

"Around 85 to 90 percent of the players Rassie (Erasmus) used last year are going to stay part of the plans under him and (new head coach) Jacques Nienaber, with Cheslin among them - I am sure of that."

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