When the Cheslin Kolbe record transfer deal was confirmed this weekend, it helped step up the 2021/22 French Top14 competition countdown.
Even though in rugby, the mere notion of a player transfer has no such impact as a Christiano Ronaldo, or a Lionel Messi move to PSG. Still, when one of the biggest names in the modern game (for a small guy that is) changes clubs, it has an impact on the competition. Indirectly, it promotes the upcoming 2021/22 season just at the right moment.
What does add to the scrutiny is who the Cheslin Kolbe record transfer involves. His current club Toulouse have been unable to retain one of their star players. He has announced on social media that Toulon have signed the Rugby World Cup winning outside back.
— Cheslin Kolbe (@Cheslin_Kolbe11) August 27, 2021
The early suspicion did not mean it was not as sudden a revelation as the Ronaldo signing was. There, the Portuguese star appeared to be heading to the blue of Manchester City, only for the final contract to be offered by his former club, Manchester United. That was ‘a bolt out of the blue’ to Football pundits – so the Kolbe shift appeared to be seamless.
What impact he has for the squad is up to the little speedster. His presence though is a sign of what Toulon hopes to achieve in the 2021/22 French Top14 this season.
Cheslin Kolbe record transfer steps up 2021/22 French Top14 countdown
Why the club was prepared to pay the reported €1million annual salary as well as the Cheslin Kolbe record transfer fees to buy him out from his final two years at rival French club Toulouse, can be speculated on. The club themselves stated that ‘We promised ourselves that we would be less dependent on internationals because we paid a heavy price last season. But this is an exception made for an exceptional player in Cheslin Kolbe.
‘A lot of things are now favourable to Toulon. It really is an exceptional opportunity, especially since we needed a game-winner in the backline. For a more average player, we would not have done it’. That explains the reasoning for Bernard Lemaitre to spend that amount, and of course, it comes down to the player’s worth.
Claiming two French Top14 titles since 2019, Stade Toulousain took out the Heineken Champions Cup this year. Alongside Romain Ntamack, skipper Jerome Kaino, and Player of the Tournament, Antoine DuPont, Kolbe was an undoubted star.
🗣 “It had outstanding skill, pace and individual brilliance from Cheslin Kolbe to score."
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 27, 2021
Would former club President Mourad Boudjellal have paid the same? You bet he would have, and the club was a virtual collection of superstar signings for many years. Yet as other clubs began to see the benefits of domestic players like DuPont reveling in the local emphasis, Toulon looked to be rebuilding from their grassroots.
Aside from Springbok Eben Etzebeth, the club was the home of Les Bleus skipper Charles Ollivon, and Baptiste Serin. Local players who were restoring regional pride to the RC Toulonnais faithful, in the Côte d’Azur. Now a five-star name will be a focal point for the club’s hopes – although, his place will have to be on hold until after Kolbe’s commitments to the South African side.
Participation date one key question after Cheslin Kolbe record transfer signing
Before any participation in Toulon colours, firstly the new signing has to play The Rugby Championship in Queensland; which the Boks are a favourite to claim, after their success against the Lions.
Immediately after that though, Kolbe won’t be joining his French Top14 club but, he will travel with the World Champions to Europe where four Test matches await.
That will have been an incredibly demanding five months. What will the fitness be of the pocket rocket by then?
So while the Cheslin Kolbe record transfer holds media space, a bigger question might be ‘when will he first run out for Toulon?’ Might that be (approximately) on December 4 – Round 12 of the 2021/22 season. If not on that date, the following weeks include the early rounds of the Champions Cup campaign. Incredible to think that, such a key signing, might not be practically able to participate so far into the new season.
If that was not a question that the Toulon board asked, then the answer might be that Kolbe will offer as much, if not more, than he did with Toulouse. At the age of 27, his best years are right now. One, if not two more Rugby World Cups could be within his reach [injury notwithstanding] so his Toulon move might see the player play through until at least 2025.
A record-setting deal, for a record-making player, seems appropriate. The boy from the Western Cape has established his quality on the domestic and International game. If ever a player’s worth was valued, then Kolbe’s high price could well return great dividends.
2021/22 French Top14 season begins Saturday, September 4
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