French giants Toulon have pulled off one of modern rugby’s great signings after recruiting Cheslin kolbe from Toulouse, who say it was the player’s decision to leave that pushed the deal through
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Many questioned Toulouse’s motivation for selling South Africa star Cheslin Kolbe to rivals Toulon, but the club’s president has said the player’s desire to switch was a major factor in the deal.
It’s not common for clubs to exchange money when signing players in rugby, but it’s understood Toulon shelled out a record €1.8million (£1.5m) in order to land Springboks winger Kolbe.
Toulouse could have turned down the offer in an attempt to keep Kolbe for the duration of his deal, but president Didier Lacroix recently stressed the player’s motivation was key.
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When asked if the sale was driven by the financial side of things, Lacroix told reporters: “Did it have a link with saving money? The answer, really honestly, is no.
“We didn’t have to do it. The player wanted to leave.”
Kolbe, 27, joined Toulouse from South African outfit Stormers in 2017 and won his first Top 14 title with the club in 2019, the same year in which he went on to lift the World Cup.
As if the rugby world wasn’t aware of his talent, Kolbe then helped Toulouse complete a historic double last term, winning the European Rugby Champions Cup alongside another league title.
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Lacroix, 51, said those accolades meant Toulouse finished the 2020/21 season with “between one and €1.5million” in profit, suggesting the squad is in a great place for the new campaign.
“I think it’s the best squad we’ve ever had,” the club president added.
“It’s a very young squad, who are already very talented and are gaining experience year on year.”
Coach Ugo Mola’s squad is kitted out with young talents, chief among which is an elite half-back pairing between France team-mates Antoine Dupont (24) and Romain Ntamack (22).
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Toulouse boast a raft of other top prospects including the likes of Selevasio Tolofua and Peato Mauvaka, as well as the Argentinian duo of Santiago Chocobares and Juan Cruz Mallia.
Having seen Kolbe leave their ranks, Toulouse also bade farewell to veterans Yoann Huget and Jerome Kaino in recent months following their retirements.
Kolbe departs the Stade Ernest-Wallon having scored 31 tries in 77 starts for Toulouse, and Toulon will hope his wing impact is enough take them back to the summit of European rugby.
Coach Patrice Collazo’s side last won the Top 14 title in 2014 and clinched three consecutive Champions Cups between 2013 and 2015.
Major improvements are required before that can become a reality, with Toulon having stumbled to an eighth-place finish among France’s top flight last term.
While the deal might not have been money-motivated on Toulouse’s behalf, the same may not be said for Kolbe, who will reportedly earn around €1million (£860,000) per year on the French Riviera.
Toulon aren’t expected to have their newest recruit available until December, however, as Kolbe concludes his international commitments with South Africa.