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Wales wary of explosive Kolbe and Boks' 'blowtorch speed' out wide
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards also lauded the ongoing class of Alun Wyn Jones.

FOR ANY DEFENCE coach, the prospect of facing Cheslin Kolbe isn’t exactly too welcome.

The Toulouse man has been in superb form in 2019 and his delightful skillset has made him one of the stars of the World Cup in Japan. Needless to say, Kolbe is going to be a major handful for Wales as they face the Springboks in Sunday’s semi-final in Yokohama.

Kolbe has beaten more defenders than any other South African player at the World Cup with 16, while his 235 metres run also have him at the top of the charts in Rassie Erasmus’ first-choice team.

cheslin-kolbe-file-photo Adam Davy Kolbe is a major threat to the Welsh. Adam Davy

As importantly as the attacking touches, Kolbe has been tackling, kick-chasing and carrying effectively, showing that his relatively small 5ft 7ins frame is no barrier to standing out at Test level.

Wales’ defence coach, Shaun Edwards, has been blown away by Kolbe’s class and said he reminds him of former England flyer Jason Robinson, who he played rugby league with in Wigan.

“The Springboks have got blowtorch speed on the edges,” said Edwards in Tokyo today. “If you want to watch a game of rugby, you want to go and watch Cheslin Kolbe. We’ll have to keep an eye on him, he’s one of the most dynamic players I’ve ever seen.

“I was lucky enough to play with Jason Robinson for many years, I was his captain at Wigan when he first came in the team there. Kolbe is a similar player to Jason, incredibly explosive, short and defies the fact that you have to be big to play the game of rugby.”

While Kolbe’s strengths often lie in avoiding contact with his evasion skills, Edwards is also anticipating a hugely physical challenge from Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks, who will attempt to bully the Welsh.

“The Springboks have huge forwards who like to get over the advantage line,” said Edwards. “It will be a battle royale on that advantage line.

“A lot of people think in defence that if you miss tackles… obviously you don’t want to miss any tackles, but it is not one of the key performance indicators on whether you win a game.

“One of the biggest ones is the gain line – did you give up the gainline or not? That is the biggest indicator whether you win or lose the game in defence. It will be a battle royale on what we call the ‘ad line’.”

guilhem-guirado-and-alun-wyn-jones-take-to-the-field James Crombie / INPHO Jones remains a class act for Wales. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Of course, the Welsh have some world-class forwards of their own and captain Alun Wyn Jones certainly belongs in that category as he continues to stand out for Warren Gatland’s side.

“He’s an incredible competitor,” said Edwards. “He’s 6ft 6ins, he’s fast, he’s unbelievably competitive and he’s unbelievably tough. He is a very brave person who sets an example for everybody.

“He has developed and I personally think he is a better player now than he has ever been, and long may it continue. He is one of the best players I have ever coached, without a shadow of a doubt.

“For me, he totally buys into what I want him to do defensively. He competes hard for the ball, he tries to be aggressive in his tackle technique, etc. I have got total buy-in from him. It’s only probably when he is not there that you realise how good he is.

“I am hoping he’s going to lead his team to victory, obviously. It doesn’t get any bigger than this: a World Cup semi-final. He has played in huge games before, he has been on Lions tours, won a deciding Lions Test in 2013 when he was captain in the last game.

“The thing about Alun Wyn is always what’s next, he is always motivated, which is why he is such a fantastic player. Besides his physical prowess and his skills, it’s his mental approach which sets him apart.”

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