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Brilliant Kolbe blocks French World Cup hopes

PARIS - Four years after playing a key role in South Africa winning the World Cup, Cheslin Kolbe put himself back at the top table of world rugby with an exhilarating performance at the Stade de France on Sunday.



The diminutive wing was one of many Springbok heroes as they edged France 29-28 in a thrilling quarter-final that puts the holders into a semi-final against England and within reach of a fourth World Cup title.

But arguably, in a one-point game, his quick thinking and lightning pace proved the difference at the end of an immense 80 minutes of rugby.

Kolbe, who has suffered with several injuries since he sliced through England's defence to help the Boks to their triumph in Yokohama in 2019, produced two moments of real magic in quick succession in the first half, the 29-year-old showing he has lost none of his pace or ability to read a game.

The first came in the 22nd minute, moments after Peato Mauvaka had gone over for France's second try. 

Thomas Ramos lined up the conversion and hesitated slighty at the start of his approach for the conversion.

Normally, that would hardly be an issue but it gave Kolbe precious moments to sprint out from the goal-line and smother the kick as it left Ramos's boot. 

A conversion charge-down is one of rugby's greatest rarities but, more importantly, two points which would normally be a gift for the France full-back were consigned to the bin.

Four minutes later the fleet-footed winger was down the other end lapping up the applause from the Springbok supporters in the 80,000 crowd. 

This time, he was alert to the cute chip through from centre Jesse Kriel. Damian Penaud is no slouch but Kolbe left him for dead to put the Boks back in front.

As South Africa began to turn the vice on the French in the second half, Kolbe produced several sizzling runs from defence which, although they did not result in points, kept the French pegged back and wary. 

Late on, perhaps mindful of the 50-metre penalty he knocked over for Toulouse in their 2021 Top 14 victory over La Rochelle in the same stadium, he attempted another drop. 

This time it went wide but South Africa held on to book themselves a place in the semi-finals. 

England need to beware: Kolbe's World Cup is not done yet. 



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