Having won just about every major accolade on offer in 2021, South Africa winger Cheslin Kolbe looks set to high-tail it out of Toulouse amid reports he’s agreed to join rivals Toulon.
Kolbe, 27, was of vital importance to coach Ugo Mola last term as Toulouse won both the Top 14—Kolbe’s second French league title—and the European Rugby Champions Cup.
The live-wire winger was also a prominent part of the South Africa team that triumphed at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, as well as beating the British and Irish Lions 2-1 this summer.
But beIN Sports reported Toulon have agreed to immediately sign Kolbe on a three-year contract, which would make June’s Top 14 final win over La Rochelle his last game for the club.
His contract at the Stade Mayol wouldn’t come into effect until October 28, by which point he'll have completed his Rugby Championship commitments with the Springboks.
Kolbe's current contract with Toulouse isn't due to expire until the end of the 2022/23 campaign, however, and Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre told L'Equipe nothing is cemented yet.
As part of a report confirming there has been contact between the two clubs, Lemaitre commented: “It may be that Toulouse and the RCT find an agreement, but we are not there yet. I cannot comment. I see the information passing like you. It seems premature to me. There are still too many shadows.”
The speedster is expected to play a role in South Africa’s autumn internationals, meaning he’s unlikely to be free to feature for his alleged new club until December at the earliest.
Kolbe has one familiar face awaiting him in fellow Springbok Eben Etzebeth, while Ireland lock Quinn Roux and Scotland’s Cornell du Preez—both born and raised in South Africa—will each join Toulon.
Toulouse may struggle to replace the mercurial talents possessed by one of the world’s in-form wingers over recent years, who has scored 172 points in 82 appearances for the club.
Kolbe—who won the 2014 Currie Cup as a youngster with Western Province—left South Africa in 2017 as an emerging talent, but his time in France has seen him grow to become a global force.
The former sevens superstar is one of only four Springboks signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation sports agency, with Aphelele Fassi recently joining him, Siya Kolisi and Sbu Nkosi on their books.
A return of 31 tries in 77 starts for Toulouse is evidence of the golden touch he’s provided, with Toulon looking to regain the form that saw them win three consecutive Champions Cups between 2013 and 2015.
Patrice Collazo’s side haven’t won the Top 14 title since 2014, although they have finished as runners-up on two occasions since then.
Toulon have also made a number of other notable signings this summer, including Fijian powerhouse Leone Nakarawa, Wasps prop Kieran Brookes and ex-Wallaby Lopeti Timani.
Toulouse, meanwhile, bade farewell to Yoann Huget and Jerome Kaino after their retirements, though they have recruited France flanker Anthony Jelonch and Tim Nanai-Williams from Clermont.
Samoa international Nanai-Williams gives Toulouse cover across numerous back-line positions, but the club will require a specialist recruit out wide to properly fill Kolbe's boots.
Toulon are desperate for improvements under Collazo having finished eighth in the Top 14 last season, and adding a star of Kolbe’s quality seems certain to boost their prospects for 2022.
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