What happens if John Smit injures his hamstring five minutes into tomorrow’s Test?
It may be an ‘if’, but Bismarck du Plessis had to leave Murrayfield in the opening stages last week and a rugby game has no set script. Smit could last the entire game, but what if he doesn’t?
If Smit’s replacement, Chiliboy Ralepelle, has to take the field early on the Boks will be in deep trouble. It may be a hypothetical situation, but the possibility of Ralepelle having to play close to a full game could happen and it points to a gross lack of planning from Bok coach Peter de Villiers.
Ralepelle’s selection ahead of Adriaan Strauss for the 28-man tour group was surprising, and now it could come back to haunt the Boks. Throughout the Absa Currie Cup season Ralepelle has only averaged 20 minutes a game for the Bulls, where he was second choice to Derick Kuun and at times Bandise Maku.
Ralepelle’s potential as a player and leader are undoubted, but he hasn’t performed under pressure for two years due to injuries.
Strauss proved himself in the Bok jersey when he got the chance in the Tri-Nations, while his form in the Absa Currie Cup did not dip enough to warrant being pushed down the hooking queue.
In fact, Strauss’s showings proved he should be a certainty as the squad’s third hooker behind Smit and Du Plessis. Ironically his standout performance of the domestic season was against Ralepelle’s Bulls when the Cheetahs went down 23-5, but Strauss was dynamic in the loose, and his break and then chip-and-chase set up the Cheetahs’ only points through a Robert Ebersohn try.
All this while Ralepelle would later claim his customary 10 to 15 minute burst off the bench. Sadly, there is more hope of a one-legged Bismarck performing than Ralepelle being able to last just one half of Test rugby if needed tomorrow.
Ralepelle’s is not a lone case – the choice of squad members No’s 22-28 have been made with no forward thinking at all. The reason for the crisis in the front-row is simply down to picking four wings on tour, while half of these haven’t even smelt the turf of the Millennium Stadium or Murrayfield, and they won’t do either at Twickenham.
Both Odwa Ndungane and Jongi Nokwe are good players and are deserving of a Bok spot, but there was no clear plan for either of their tours. As with Earl Rose and Ralepelle, they were merely there to hold tackle bags and do little else, except inflate the number of political selections in the squad.
The English Test tomorrow will be all about strength in depth, and the Bok tight forward reserves don’t inspire much confidence. De Villiers decided to pick Chiliboy for his squad a month ago – it could prove to be not such a hot choice after all.
By Grant Ball