Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer has responded to keo.co.za’s concerns regarding Chilliboy Ralepelle’s premature exposure to Vodacom Super 14 rugby.
Meyer, who has an impressive track record of developing and nurturing players, clarified to keo.co.za that Ralepelle’s case was no different to that of Morne Steyn or Derick Hougaard – players he acquired at the age of 18.
“I will never push a guy who I don’t think is ready. I’ve said that before and I stand by that. This is particularly applicable to the tight five. But we have a situation where our No 1 hooker Gary Botha is injured. Our other options, Deon Strydom and Adriaan Strauss, are also injured. So after Kobus van der Walt (the starting hooker against the Cheetahs) Chilliboy is the only other hooker in the region who is available.”
Meyer stated that even though Ralepelle’s elevation to the bench was injury necessitated, he felt Ralepelle is ready for the step up in measured doses.
“In three warm-up games preceding the Super 14, I didn’t give Chilliboy more than half an hour off the bench, and that will remain my policy. He will get game time in the next three weeks, but no more than 30 minutes. The same applies to our other SA U21 hooker Adriaan Strauss when he regains fitness. It is critical that we don’t overplay anyone who isn’t 100% ready, no matter how much talent they have.”
Meyer also cautioned that when Ralepelle does revert to the Vodacom Cup side, this should not be interpreted as an axing.
“Chillboy will get game time in the Super 14, but I’ll also send him to the Vodacom Cup side every now and then to get a full 80 minutes under his belt. Let me say right now that in my eyes he’s an unbelievable talent, he’s been training with the senior squad every day since last year, and now we will blend him in. The five minutes he got on Friday night was the beginning of that process.
“I can comfort anyone who has concerns about Chilliboy’s development. We’ve always had a plan for him and we are not abandoning that.”