World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe says it would be a career highlight for him to face the British and Irish Lions this summer.
The Springboks superstar helped South Africa to world title glory in November 2019 when he scored a try during their 32-12 victory over England.
Kolbe is firmly established among world rugby’s true box-office entertainers, and another big stage awaits on Saturday as he prepares to line up for Toulouse against Heineken Champions Cup final opponents La Rochelle at Twickenham.
Victory for Toulouse in the first all-French final since 2015 would give them a record fifth European crown, while they are also currently top of the French Top 14 league.
And attention will soon turn to the Lions’ visit, and a three-Test series when Kolbe should be among South Africa’s principal dangermen.
“The group that (Lions head coach) Warren Gatland has put together, I think it’s an all-round fantastic squad,” Kolbe said.
“There is a lot of excitement for me, to be honest, playing in a final, having only been here for four years at Toulouse, and then hopefully being part of the Lions tour that is coming to South Africa.
“It would definitely be a highlight in my career and something that I would definitely love to be a part of.
“But first things first, we’ve got a final this weekend, and that’s where my all my energy and focus is vested into.”
Toulouse won the European Cup on four occasions between 1996 and 2010, but a fifth title has eluded them since then, with three semi-final appearances the closest they have got.
Kolbe and company start as marginal favourites this weekend, although debut finalists La Rochelle have enough quality to upset those odds.
“I spoke to my wife last night, and I said for some unknown reason the final this weekend feels much more nerve-wracking than the final I played at the World Cup,” Kolbe added.
“I am not too sure what the reason is for that. The nerves and butterflies are already starting to show, but I think that is a good sign as well.
“I think it’s probably (partly due to) the long wait, Toulouse not getting the fifth title, and I think there is a bit of, not pressure, but expectations, from the public, from the club.
“And obviously, a bit of pressure on us as players to, hopefully, to try and create history by getting that fifth star on to the jersey.
“We have a lot of old memories all around the stadium, with the four stars and the various teams that have played in the finals. And I think it also just brings a bit of motivation into the group.
“I think that Toulouse has got an incredible history with the incredible players it has produced throughout the years. And, obviously, achieving so much with the Champions Cup and the Top 14.
“So, definitely a bit of history all around, but I think it is there to motivate us to, hopefully, succeed this coming Saturday.”