Chiliboy hunts top Bok spot
Chiliboy Ralepelle (File)
Pretoria - It does not happen every day that your hooker gets the team prize for most tackles in a rugby match.
However, Chiliboy Ralepelle is not your everyday hooker. With his 15 tackles inside 55 minutes in the Bulls' previous match against the Sharks in Durban he sent a clear message to John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis about wanting to be the Springboks' first-choice hooker.
The 25-year-old indicated on Wednesday that his duel with the Sharks pair on Saturday would not be personal, but he cannot agree about being tagged South Africa's "third hooker" for the World Cup.
His fiery performance in Durban was clear proof of that and on Saturday he gets a further chance to advance the merits of his argument when he runs on against the Sharks.
Ralepelle and Gary Botha will again change roles for the Sharks game. Botha will be called on as impact player.
Bakkies Botha's return at lock and shifting Danie Rossouw to the bench are changes that Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has made to the line-up that beat the Stormers.
Ludeke already came up with a workable and practical solution before the season started to keeping both his world class hookers interested and to get the best out of both Ralepelle and Gary Botha.
Each one plays two games before the other one gets two starting opportunities - something that John Plumtree should perhaps also have done.
Botha's form was impressive, but that has always been a hallmark of the hardworking player's game and it was rather Ralepelle who started to flourish with the benefit of regular game time.
The rest periods also kept away the injuries and Ludeke has two players that are fit, ready and very effective.
"It worked well," Ralepelle said of the rotation policy.
"It's in the interest of your team and you have to make sure that you execute the plan. The rotation was the best thing for the team. It meant that both of us were fresh for an opportunity in the starting line-up. It worked for both of us.
"I also did not struggle with injuries. I'm enjoying my rugby and am playing with a lot of confidence."
It's mere coincidence that he has been down to start in both games against the Sharks, but he would not want it any other way.
"The important thing is to get the opportunity to play and grow as a player. The only way you get better is by playing more regularly. Fortunately I can start twice against the Sharks because I have those one-on-one battles with them.
"Every Bulls player wants to be better than his opponent. But what happened last week won't necessarily happen this week. You have to be switched on. What happened against the Sharks last time is over and done with.
"I have to repeat on Saturday what I did last time. And hopefully that brings about a positive result for the team."