Konnichiwa! Cheslin Kolbe enjoying his new home in Japan

Konnichiwa! Cheslin Kolbe enjoying his new home in Japan

Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe has adjusted well after making the move from France to Japan to play for Tokyo Sungoliath.

The diminutive winger first moved from his home in Cape Town to France in 2017, where he spent four glittering seasons at Toulouse before moving east to Toulon in 2021. Last year, like so many Springboks before him, Kolbe signed with a club in the Land of the Rising Sun for a new adventure.

The double World Cup winner has hit the ground running for the Tokyo franchise, scoring two tries in his last six outings, one from the left wing and one off the right for good measure.

In a wide-ranging interview with Donald McRae in The Guardian, Kolbe only had positives to say about his Japanese soirée.

"I'm really enjoying myself... Japanese people are so welcoming, polite, respectful," said the  30-year-old.

"And the club has been amazing to me and my family. Layla and the kids also enjoyed it but we've now settled them back in Cape Town so they can go to school here. I will travel back and forth [between Tokyo and Cape Town] which won't be easy but it's good for the kids to be home."

"The league has grown so much. It's so competitive and if some of the teams played sides from the Top 14 or the Premiership it would be a tough battle.

"The Japanese are so open to learning and we can learn from them as well. I haven't seen players running the way the Japanese boys run on a rugby field. Man, it's insane. They love putting in the hard work."

Kolbe joins seven of his Bok teammates in Japan, including fellow backline players Damian de Allende, Jessie Kriel and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk. Stints in Japan League One were initially seen as a way to extend players' careers, though that may have changed in recent seasons due to the influx of quality foreign-born players. All Blacks captain Sam Cane, for example, is Kolbe's teammate at Sungoliath. 

Either way, it's clear that Kolbe has one eye on the 2027 World Cup in Australia, where the Boks will attempt a historic three-peat.

"The plan is to be part of the Springboks for as long as possible, hopefully all the way to 2027," he added.

"But I don't get ahead of myself. My focus now is in Japan, making sure that I play great rugby over there. Whatever happens after that is a bonus."

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