Kolbe faces former Stormers touring room-mate Leyds in European Champions Cup final

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Cheslin Kolbe for Toulouse
Cheslin Kolbe for Toulouse
  • Toulouse's Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt face off against fellow Springboks Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds against La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup final.
  • Of the two French teams, Toulouse come into Saturday's clash as firm favourites after winning the competition four times in the past to La Rochelle's duck.
  • Leyds explained how special it was to take on his former Stormers touring roommate Kolbe in Europe's biggest club rugby prize.

Springboks Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt of Toulouse will face off against compatriots Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds of La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.

The two French clubs have never met in the Champions Cup before, with Kolbe’s Toulouse entering the contest as firm favourites.

Toulouse have been crowned European champions four times before, winning the continent's major rugby trophy in 1996, 2003, 2005 and, most recently, in 2010.

But upstarts La Rochelle, who have reached this stage for the first time, are nothing to be snarled at, showing fantastic form and flair in beating Springbok-laden Sale Sharks and Leinster in the knockout phase en route to the final.

Resurgent former Cheetahs wing Rhule has been the pick of the La Rochelle bunch this season, even earning himself a nomination onto the 15-man 2021 European Player-of-the-Year candidates' list.

LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE - APRIL 10: Raymond Rhule of L

Raymond Rhule last played for the Springboks against New Zealand in the 57-0 defeat at North Harbour Stadium in 2017. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

The 28-year-old Rhule, who has seven Bok Tests to his name from 2017, came on as a substitute to score two tries as La Rochelle beat Agen 59-0 to close the gap between themselves and log leaders Toulouse to a single point atop the French Top 14 log, with two rounds remaining.

ROB HOUWING | Stock take: What state will overseas Boks arrive home in? 

Maverick former Western Province and Stormers fullback Leyds (10 Tests, one try) was also instrumental in the blistering attacking La Rochelle showed, which could pose a danger to Toulouse in London.

Leyds told Rugby Pass how special it was that him and his former Stormers roommate Kolbe were about to take each other on in the biggest European club competition finale.

"We roomed together for four years at the Stormers," said Leyds.

"Whether we won or lost, we were the first ones out on tour. It was awesome, our last year was when his wife fell pregnant and that was when they moved to Toulouse. Seeing him now, the way he is with his kids and wife, is just amazing.

"He sent me a message straight after our semi-final saying, 'This is unreal, can’t wait to see you in the final'.

"Who would have thought, from 2014 when we started playing together, to be playing in France and playing against each other at the 2021 Champions Cup final in Twickenham?

"It’s pretty awesome how rugby has done that in our lives, two guys from Cape Town, not the greatest of upbringings, to be playing in the biggest game in Europe. It’s pretty special."

Meanwhile, Toulouse lost to Bayonne 32-28 after resting a number of their stars - including Kolbe, although Elstadt started at openside flank - ahead of the crucial Champions Cup final this weekend.

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