Bok crowd-pleaser Kolbe just like England's Robinson, says Edwards

Tokyo (AFP) –


Springbok winger Cheslin Kolbe has the lightning pace and physical build reminiscent of England's World Cup winner Jason Robinson, Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards said ahead of his side's semi-final clash with South Africa on Sunday.

Kolbe has underlined his credentials as one of the hottest properties in rugby union with a series of blistering performances that have lit up the competition in Japan, wowing fans to become one of the most recognisable faces of the World Cup.

His lightning footwork and an ability to use his power-packed if diminutive stature to ricochet his way out of contact situations remind the watcher of a certain Robinson, who shone in the 13-man code before switching to become a star for England and the British and Irish Lions in union.

Like Kolbe, 2003 World Cup winner Robinson stands 1.72m (5ft 8in) tall and weighed in at a relatively paltry 80kg (12st 8lb), had pace to burn and a devastating step that saw many a defender beaten.

"I was lucky enough to play with Jason Robinson, I was his captain at Wigan when he first came in the Wigan team," said Edwards, capped 36 times by Britain and rugby league's most decorated player with 37 winner's medals.

"Kolbe's a similar player to Jason: incredibly explosive, short," he said, adding he was proof that you dont have to be big to play rugby.

"You look at the England backline, they're not huge, they're not massive but they're incredibly skilful," he said.

"Same with New Zealand, they've got some smaller players now. It's a game for all shapes and sizes and let's hope that continues."

Edwards added: "If you want to go and watch a game of rugby, you want to go and watch Cheslin Kolbe. We have to keep our eye on him, he's one of the most dynamic players I've ever seen."

- 'Incredible pace' -

But it wasn't just Kolbe about whom Edwards was worried, with Makazole Mapimpi showing equal ability on the left wing for South Africa, as well as free-running Willie le Roux, always a dangerman at full-back.

"They've got blow torch speed on the edges," he said.

"If there were a 4x100m relay race of all the teams involved in the World Cup they'd be fastest. They've got some incredible pace out wide."

Edwards warned, however, that attack was only one weapon in the Springboks' armoury.

"They are very well coached, any team Rassie Erasmus coaches is fantastic defensively, probably the best defensive team in the world at the moment."

"They're going to be well-organised and they?re going to have a strong defence and strong kicking game."

Wales have racked up five wins from the last six against South Africa, but Edwards said that counted for nothing.

"Personally don't think it has a bearing on the game. Each game is a different entity," he said, adding: "It's 'seize-the-moment' time.

"These opportunities don't come around very often. The last time was in 2011 (when Wales lost to France in the semi-final) and we just missed out then. You want to be in the big games and there's no bigger than the World Cup final."