Springboks

The Boks’ BIG gap in 2017: hooker

2017-01-20 10:13
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Getty)

Cape Town – It used to be the area where they found it tough to decide between two world-class competitors ... Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss.

For at least the last nine years, a period initially featuring a certain John Smit too, the Springboks have had either or both of these formidable hookers to choose from.

The now 79-cap Du Plessis made his Test debut in 2007, whilst Strauss – now retired from internationals after a difficult 2016 year as captain -- was only a year behind in starting out in green and gold, and has amassed 66 appearances.

But the stark reality may very well dawn this year on incumbent coach Allister Coetzee, already with so much uncertainty swirling around him and his broader resources, that a completely new figure is required for the critical berth.

That is unless, of course, gnarly Montpellier-based Du Plessis returns to favour, a little against the grain of official sentiment toward overseas-based players, in 2017.

That prospect will increase in likelihood if the looming Super Rugby competition fails to unearth a suitable-looking candidate for the Bok No 2 jersey, and as things stand a return to the muscular, no-nonsense Du Plessis is something Gary Gold, former Springbok assistant coach, would favour.

Once a club player in the position, the educated ex-Bath and Sharks director of rugby stressed that, as a general rule, he favours the Boks largely bypassing players based abroad as he feels it is easier to create continuity from within the South African system rather than summon players in different states of preparation and fitness from another continent.

“But I do feel that if you are going to look at overseas guys, it should be because you are seeking best possible specialists -- and you don’t get more specialist than hooker, or scrumhalf.

“I wouldn’t, for example, advocate calling a Johan Goosen from Europe and then playing him out of position, as has (occurred).

“I am still very partial toward Bismarck; he is by no means over the hill (at 32). His basics, at lineouts and scrums, are outstanding and his work around the park is excellent as well; he doesn’t take a backward step to someone like (New Zealand’s) Dane Coles.”

Gold admits that South Africa doesn’t have a host of hookers “absolutely jumping off the page yet” to fill the major Bok vacancy at No 2 given the unavailability of Bulls-based Strauss, increasing the importance of candidates coming firmly to light in Super Rugby soon.

The home-based hookers in the extended Bok squad of late last year were Bongi Mbonambi of the Stormers and the Lions’ robust young Malcolm Marx, and Gold has some mixed views on that pair.

“Bongi has gathered a little bit of experience at Test level (five caps as a substitute – Sport24), and he’s not a poor player by any stretch of the imagination.

“He is not the finished product, although it is said that he is a hard worker always keen to better himself; that’s a plus.

“As for Marx, he is closer to Bissie in style; the nearest alternative. But there is a very real problem as things stand with his throwing in … a bit like a golfer with the yips.

“If you judge it as a weighed percentage of what he does as a hooker, it’s a big consideration … it is something that can be fixed, though.”

Gold is also quite partial to the claims of the Sharks’ Franco Marais, who he is well familiar with from his time at Kings Park.

But he also produces a minor curveball.

“We mustn’t overlook the claims of Chiliboy (Ralepelle): he could yet be the diamond in the rough.”

Once a much-publicised teenage wunderkind, Ralepelle has had an up-and-down international and first-class career thus far, impeded by a doping offence and injuries, but the now 30-year-old does boast 22 Springbok caps – the last was against Italy in June 2013.

Gold says: “I know him as an individual (he has been on the Sharks’ books since late 2015 – Sport24) and have a lot of confidence in him.

“Chiliboy is a leader, has grown up a lot, and his own basics are very sound … I still believe he could add tremendous value.”

 *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  chiliboy ralepelle  |  rugby
NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Vote

Following their opening Rugby Championship win over Argentina, where will the Springboks finish in this year's tournament?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 PSL season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.