Cape Town - The Stormers have had a tough time with injuries of late, and they would have been holding their breath on the condition of Cheslin Kolbe on Friday night after their fullback was rocked by the shoulder of Sunwolves lock Tim Bond.
The armless tackle was so bad that Bond was shown a straight red card, and as Kolbe hobbled off the field there were concerned faces in the stands.
Kolbe is currently providing flyhalf cover after Kurt Coleman was ruled out for the season last week, and there are also no standout options at fullback other than the 22-year-old speedster.
He may be young, but Kolbe has quickly become a key figure at Newlands.
It is for precisely that reason that one of the first questions at Friday night’s post-match press conference – following the Stormers’ 46-19 win over the Sunwolves – was to enquire about Kolbe’s condition.
“He’s good,” said Fleck.
“He obviously took a hell of a shot there. He’s fine … he passed all of his tests.
“He was actually ready to come back on … he wanted that little stint at flyhalf there and wanted that shot at goal at the end.
“He was a bit disappointed he didn’t get back on. He’s a quality player … some of those lines he was running were pretty special so it was good to see.”
Kolbe was his usual dangerous self with ball in hand.
His role in Juan de Jongh’s try was particularly special as he sliced through the Sunwolves defence from inside his own 22m area to set up his captain.
Kolbe is also incredibly brave given his small stature, but he takes a lot of big knocks on both defence and attack as a result.
Friday night was no different, even before the flying shoulder that looked capable of doing serious damage to Kolbe.
“It’s probably quite tough to get down on your knees to tackle someone,” Fleck said.
“It’s a tough game we play … the one thing about Cheslin is that he keeps getting back up. He’s a special player and guys are going to mark him. He takes the hits.”
He certainly does.
The thing about Kolbe at the moment is that he is producing the goods week in and week out. He is showing consistency – something that is lacking from current Springbok fullback Willie le Roux’s game.
It may not be too far-fetched to start thinking about Kolbe playing his way into the Springbok squad for June … especially if former mentor Allister Coetzee is the man in charge.