- Springbok winger Kurt-Lee Arendse has shrugged off the disappointment of the Olympic Sevens tournament from last year.
- Arendse will start at right wing in Saturday’s first Test against the All Blacks at the Mbombela Stadium.
- Arendse more than understood the big boots he needs to fill in Cheslin Kolbe’s injury-enforced absence.
Winger Kurt-Lee Arendse said he wasn’t just chuffed to fill Cheslin Kolbe’s big boots, but is also grateful for the chance to do so in the green and gold jersey of the Springboks.
He’ll do so for the second time when he starts against the All Blacks in the first Rugby Championship Test at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.
Arendse started his debut Test against Wales last month and he distinguished himself very well, but it’s clear the performance from the Bloemfontein Test opened up another starting chance.
Tests for South African players don’t come any bigger than the All Blacks, but Arendse said he wasn’t overwhelmed by the occasion.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and it’s a privilege to follow in Cheslin’s footsteps,” Arendse said.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and when I put the Springbok jersey over my head, I have to take that opportunity with both hands.
“The All Blacks are a really skilful side, but I’m focusing on what we’ve prepped on and we’ll see how it goes.
“Cheslin has a good step and he’s very explosive, but that is also an ode to Cheslin’s skill.”
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jaden Hendrikse, 23 Willie le Roux
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 George Bower
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Quinn Tupaea
Roughly this time last year, Arendse was wallowing in the disappointment of the Blitzboks being unceremoniously dumped out of the quarter-final stage by Argentina in the 2022 Olympics Men’s Sevens Rugby tournament.
It was a failure that resonated around the country as the Blitzboks, who admittedly weren’t in action frequently until the tournament started, were short of a gallop.
The sevens side may have made up for that shortcoming with success at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, but Arendse has something equally significant in facing the All Blacks to look forward to.
Arendse, who was denied an opportunity to play Super Rugby because of Covid-19, never got a chance to play against the likes of Sevu Reece and Will Jordan at that level, but will do so at Test level.
“A year ago, I never thought I would play for the Springboks,” Arendse said.
“I’m really happy that I’m here and it will be nice to play against guys like Will Jordan and Sevu Reece.
“I’ll want to prove something against them because they’re one of the best in the world.”
Arendse is far from worried as to how he should conduct his job on Saturday, but said he speaks to himself to ensure his feet are on the ground.
“During a game, I always speak to myself to remind myself that I have a job to do, to forget about mistakes and get on the job,” Arendse said.
“I also know that my primary job is to make sure I make my tackles and don’t slip any of them, even though I’m an attacking player.”