Rugby 13.1.2017 02:34 pm

WP’s move for SP Marais spells bad news about Cheslin Kolbe

Is 2017 Cheslin Kolbe's last Super Rugby campaign for the Stormers? Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images.

Is 2017 Cheslin Kolbe's last Super Rugby campaign for the Stormers? Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images.

The former Sharks and Bulls fullback’s signature might be the union admitting their 23-year-old pocket rocket is moving on.

Given that their commercial arm declared bankruptcy, Western Province’s five new signings are probably something worth celebrating.

Instead, it raises an uncomfortable question over the future one of the side’s biggest stars: Cheslin Kolbe.

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The 23-year-old pocket rocket has been one of the consistent standouts for a Stormers side that has gradually regressed over the past few years.

He has already been linked with a move to French club Toulouse.

The fact that Kolbe’s contract with WP expires at the end of 2017 lends substance to those rumours.

But what should really have Capetonians jittery is the announcement that one of those five new recruits is SP Marais.

The 27-year-old is a dependable fullback, who has been a bit of a journeyman due to some rotten luck.

Revealingly, WP’s director of rugby, Gert Smal, calls him “an experienced head at the back”.

There is no indication or mention of Marais being brought in as back-up to Kolbe.

That doesn’t mean Kolbe, who’s developed into a fine all-round player despite only standing 1.71 m in his boots, is dropping down the pecking order.

Instead, it’s possible Marais recruitment is forward planning for Kolbe leaving – a depressing thought.

And who can blame him, especially after not being considered by Allister Coetzee – a supposed admirer – for the Bok jersey last season?

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Overall, the new signings are a tad underwhelming.

Steph de Wit is one of the victims of the Lions’ seemingly endless factory of flankers and decided to leave.

“In Stefan de Wit we have a genuine openside flank who plays towards the ball, which should bring some balance to our loose forwards,” said Smal.

The spectre of Scottish international Huw Jones also moving on has led to the signing of the promising Dan Kriel, the twin of Springbok Jesse.

Province believe him to be the type of versatile player they require.

The Stormers will play three warm-up games – Cheetahs (28 January), South Western Districts (4 February) and Lions (11 February) – before starting their Super Rugby campaign.

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