Chiliboy's long road back to the top
Cape Town - It's been a long wait for Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Banned from rugby for two years after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance (drostanolone) back in 2014, the future appeared murky for the 22-Test Springbok.
Eyebrows were then raised when John Smit and the Sharks gave Ralepelle a lifeline, offering him a contract in October 2015 knowing that he would only be able to return to competition in April 2016.
Now 29, Ralepelle has come a long way since making his debut for the Springboks as a 19-year-old in 2006, but just two starts in the green and gold hardly suggests that his potential was ever fully reached.
Ralepelle's ban came at the worst possible time and he missed a couple of his prime years as a result.
That is in the past, though, and on Saturday he will make his first Super Rugby start for the Sharks when they take on the Kings in Durban.
The comeback is complete.
"It is an opportunity that’s been long-waiting and I’ve
worked hard to get to this point," Ralepelle said.
"I can’t wait to go out there and just do it
for the guys next to me and just play alongside some legends.
nerves will always be there. But in the two years (off) I had enough time to work on
my game as a hooker and a player in terms of what I needed to improve on.
used that time wisely on and off the field."
Ralepelle says he made the decision early on to tackle his ban with a positive attitude.
He worked hard and made the most of the extra time he had to spend with his loved ones.
"There’s an old saying that every downfall does create an
opportunity and that’s the mind-set that I went out with … that every day was
an opportunity to get out there and work and be with my family," said Ralepelle.
"As players we
get so stuck into our routine and you forget the small things that the world
has got to offer out there so I made sure that I used that time wisely."
The Sharks, who are back in playoff contention after wins over the Jaguares and Hurricanes, are heavily favoured to beat the Kings.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:10.
15. Willie le Roux, 15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie (captain), 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1. Dale Chadwick
16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Juan Schoem, 18. Thomas du Toitan, 19. Giant Mtyanda, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Garth April, 23. Odwa Ndungane
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Schalk Oelofse, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Tom Botha, 19 JC Astle, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Leighton Eksteen