South African Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe said that he would opt to play for the Springboks in the British & Irish Lions tour next year instead of playing for the Blitzboks at the Olympic Games.
Kolbe made the revelation in an interview with sport publication, Planet Rugby.
The British & Irish Lions will play three Test matches against the reigning World Champions South Africa in 2021 in addition to five other matches across four different locations between July 3 and August 7. Meanwhile the Olympic Games, moved forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be staged between July 23 and August 8 in Japan.
“It’s a tough decision but I would definitely choose taking on the British and Irish Lions,” Kolbe said.
According to the winger, both events are extremely appealing to him but given the chance of him being available for selection for the next Lions tour to South Africa are next to impossible, he will jump at the chance now if it presents itself.
“Although I would love to play Sevens for my country at the Tokyo Olympics, to be part of a British and Irish Lions series is a goal I really want to achieve and I would like to be a part of that because it only happens every 12 years,” Kolbe said.
“Next year would be my only chance to face them, if I do get selected, as I won’t be around for their next tour so I would definitely go for that option.”
In February, Kolbe revealed that he was in discussion with the South African Rugby Union about representing his country in the Rugby Sevens tournament at the Olympics. However, he said no decision had been made at the time.
Kolbe already has a bronze medal with the Blitzboks from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in which Rugby Sevens made its debut in the global showpiece. He had also previously stated that winning Olympic gold remains one of his biggest dreams.
The Lions tour is equally highly regarded and players from the opposition, just like those selected from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, take immense pride in being selected for and playing in those games.
Given the disruptions occasioned by COVID-19, the Lions have expressed their openness to moving the tour to September or October next year to avoid a clash with the Olympics and fit in with a new global rugby calendar which is expected to be published after the pandemic.