Rugby Championship

Chiliboy: Deep down I knew I'd be back

2017-09-28 17:01
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Getty)

Bloemfontein - The only real surprise in Allister Coetzee's squad announcement for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein on Saturday was the inclusion of Chiliboy Ralepelle on the bench. 

The 31-year-old comes in for Bongi Mbonambi, who has been Coetzee's favoured second-choice hooker for most of his tenure. 

Mbonambi has quietly gone about notching up 11 Test caps from the bench, but Ralepelle's display in last weekend's Currie Cup clash between the Sharks and the Blue Bulls at a sopping wet Kings Park seems to be what swayed Coetzee his way this week.

Ralepelle, who last played a Test match for the Boks in 2013 after making his debut in 2006, described this as an "emotional week". 

READ: SEASON-DEFINING TEST FOR BOKS, COETZEE

The story of the man's fall from grace, when in 2014 he was banned from the game for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid, is well-known. 

That was a dark time for Ralepelle, but as the Sharks gave him a lifeline in 2016, he began to approach his rugby, and his life, with a positivity that is still very much a part of his make-up today.

"I just have to live the moment," he said at the Springbok team hotel in Bloemfontein on Thursday.

"One of the things that I said to myself (during his ban) was that I've got to control the controllables. All I could do is train and work hard and hopefully I got seen again and got chosen.

"I was very privileged. I worked with some of the best high performance coaches in the world and it was nice to get myself in that proper mind-frame and regather myself.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunity."

When asked if there was ever a moment where he gave up on ever playing Test rugby again, Ralepelle again revealed his positive outlook.

"Rugby has always been a part of me and it has always been my passion, so deep down in my heart I always knew that I had a lot to offer," he said.

"I didn't want to walk away from the game thinking 'if only I had given extra'.

"Now I've got the opportunity to seize the day ... I'm here and I just have to do the best for the team when I run out."

The harsh reality of being a second-choice hooker under Coetzee is that there is seldom more than a few minutes of playing time.

Mbonambi has experienced that under both Adriaan Strauss and Malcolm Marx over the last season-and-a-half, but Ralapelle is not focusing on that.

"It's something that is beyond my control. It's in the coach's control. They will feel it out and decide when the best time is to give me an opportunity," he said.

Coetzee, meanwhile, said he was very happy for Ralepelle.

"I think he brings a lot of ability in terms of his experience as a set piece hooker. He is a scrummaging hooker," he said.

"I watched the game against the Bulls last week in the wet weather and he really did well."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.

Follow Sport24's @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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