TOKYO, 2 Nov – Cheslin Kolbe has greatly boosted South African morale after being declared fit to start Saturday's Rugby World Cup final against England.
But a decade ago, it seemed wildly unrealistic to suggest Kolbe would earn a single cap for the Springboks never mind become one of their most potent attacking weapons in their biggest game for 12 years.
As a young hopeful growing up in the Cape Town suburb of Kraaifontein, Kolbe was repeatedly advised to turn his back on his dreams of a career in professional rugby.
The reason? Not so much a lack of talent, but of size, a hindrance, which, until recently, was considered terminal for a budding career in South Africa. At 1.70m and 74kg, Kolbe was simply regarded as too small.
"Everyone is quite obsessed with size back home, everyone wants to be bigger than the next person," he said. "I don't believe that's the way forward. Why do you have to be 90kg, 100kg to make it?"
Kolbe used the obsession with his limitations as motivation, doggedly carving out his own path.
He initially found success in sevens, winning bronze with South Africa at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, below, which makes him one of the 18 Olympians from Brazil who have competed at Rugby World Cup 2019.
In 2017, Kolbe moved to the Top 14 in France with Toulouse, but it was the arrival of Rassie Erasmus as Springboks coach in 2018 that finally gave him the chance to showcase his unique talents for the test side.
Erasmus's interest was understandably piqued because Kolbe is fast, quite astonishingly fast. As the cousin of Wayde van Niekerk – who set the 400m world record on the way to winning gold at the Rio Olympics – speed and endurance genuinely appear to run in his DNA.
During a sprint up the touchline, Kolbe can maintain an average speed of 33.66kmh. That is only 3.92kmh shy of Usain Bolt's average speed when he obliterated the 100m world record in Berlin in 2009.
Add in an exceptional ability to change direction and Kolbe is a nightmare for the larger, more powerful men trying to bring him down.
While he missed South Africa's semi-final win over Wales with an ankle injury, he showed his ability during their 49-3 pool stage win over Italy, scoring two tries.
Just look at how he twists and turns past two hapless Italian defenders in the narrowest of gaps to open the scoring in this clip.
The video below, from South Africa's opening game against New Zealand, illustrates his ability to turn the game in an instant.
Picking up the ball well inside his own half against the All Blacks, he sprints almost the entire field, with only a last-ditch tackle preventing him scoring a remarkable try.
Kolbe is not merely an asset in attack, he punches above his weight in defence, too. Unafraid of taking down the hulking giants of the game, he has made a tackle every 11 minutes on average during the tournament.
This ranks him above his opposite number in the final, England's Anthony Watson, as a defensive asset. Despite being 18cm taller and weighing 21kg more, Watson has averaged a tackle every 14 minutes during the tournament.
Kolbe has always looked to contravene the traditional thinking that bigger is better.
"There's a saying going around that dynamite comes in small packages," he said. "We all have something special we can contribute to our teams. For me, it's about giving as much momentum as possible for our forwards to keep going on the front foot."
While the Springboks go into the final as underdogs after England's remarkable semi-final victory over the All Blacks, Kolbe could produce the moment or two of magic that turns the game South Africa's way.