Cheslin Kolbe broke English hearts with his World Cup-winning try in Japan – now he has the Lions in his sights.
At Twickenham today South Africa’s flying winger is part of a Toulouse team out to make history as the first five-time European champions.
He lines up against Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle in only the fifth ever all-French climax to the Champions Cup.
But looming large on the horizon is his once-in-a-lifetime crack at the best British and Irish rugby can muster.
“That will definitely be a highlight in my career,” said Kolbe, whose try in the 2019 World Cup final ended any hope of an England revival.
“Scoring in the World Cup final was something I never thought would happen to me. We dream of that as kids but I never thought I’d be in such a position.
“How do you follow that? Well, if you’re not going to have the hunger to want to do more and create special memories, you’re not on the right track.
“For me, it’s not just about the World Cup final and lifting the Webb Ellis Cup; there are more achievements, not just for myself but the teams I play for.”
Chief amongst those is the Lions tour, an ambition of his since watching the tourists’ last visit to South Africa in 2009.
“That was definitely the year I fell more and more in love with the game,” he said. “Just watching the Lions on TV, all those supporters!
“The majority in the stadiums were wearing red jerseys and the atmosphere all around was insane. I’ve never seen South Africa as crazy as what it was then.”
The 2009 Springboks emerged triumphant but the current crop are ring rusty. Due to the pandemic, South Africa’s last Test, incredible as it sounds, was the World Cup final.
“It’s been more than a year and a half now and I’m actually quite excited to see how the boys are going to be going. I’m sure each and every player will give their all to the jersey.”
With the series still two months away, Kolbe can focus on today’s challenge against opponents who have beaten Bath, Gloucester and Sale en route to their first final.
“For some reason, this final feels much more nerve-wracking than the final I played in the World Cup,” Kolbe said.
“We have an opportunity to make history, to get that fifth star onto the jersey after an 11-year wait. And the nerves, the butterflies, are really starting to show.”
Leicester fell agonisingly short of a first European trophy in 19 years as Montpellier won the Challenge Cup 18-17 in front of 10,000 fans at Twickenham.