Opportunity knocks for Chiliboy
Pretoria – Chiliboy Ralepelle will on Friday once again get the opportunity to serve South Africans a reminder of his rugby talent.
The Bulls hooker will then only make his 21st appearance for them in a Super Rugby match – six years after making his debut in the competition.
It will only be the fifth time that the 25-year-old hooker is in the starting team and the first time since 11 April 2009 when he was in the run-on side against the Waratahs.
There won’t be many arguments against the statement that Ralepelle has never let his team-mates down in a blue or even a Green and Gold jersey.
However, he has not been able to establish himself as the first-choice at the Bulls or Boks.
Ralepelle’s never ending battle with injuries (he only completed the 2009 Super Rugby without problems) has meant that he has not had sufficient opportunities to silence the critics. The flames have only been fanned by national coaches wanting the player in their squads.
There were inevitable questions about the reason for his inclusion – and unfortunately for the hardworking hooker he is viewed as a political inclusion by many supporters.
If that was not enough to break his spirit, he was provisionally suspended last year for the use of a banned stimulant. While his innocence was proved at a hearing, there can be no doubt that his reputation took a further knock.
But all that can move to the background this year if Ralepelle grabs his opportunities – like the one in Bloemfontein on Friday.
His inclusion may be because of a shoulder injury to Gary Botha, but Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said that all Ralepelle’s team-mates respect his ability as a player.
“Chili has been part of our squad for a long time and is highly rated. It’s a pity that the rest of the country could not see the best of him because of all his injuries, but we know what we have in him. He is good enough to start games for the Bulls.”
Apart from the forced change at hooker, Ludeke has picked a fit Jaco Pretorius at outside centre.
Stephan Dippenaar therefore moves to the bench in place of Jaco van der Westhuyzen, while flank Derick Kuün will be the back-up hooker, a position he played in 2007, 2008 and 2009.