RYAN VREDE, in Edinburgh, writes that Chiliboy Ralepelle needs good counsel and to be honest with himself and accept he doesn’t have a future with the Springboks.
Another tour carrying tackle bags. I can’t think of a player more familiar with their constitution than Ralepelle. He was overlooked for the Ireland Test, falling further down the queue with the inclusion of Schalk Brits. Now Ralepelle hasn’t been deemed good enough to play against Scotland and won’t see the grass of Twickenham unless injuries intervene.
I’ve written extensively about this subject and I still feel it is pertinent in light of how appallingly Ralepelle has been treated over the course of his Test career.
In detailing Ralepelle’s plight, you cannot ignore the impact and timing of injuries on his career. In 2008 then coach Peter de Villiers said he would have been his starting hooker had he not been sidelined at the beginning of his tenure. It proved to be no more than lip service, as De Villiers subsequently played Ralepelle in small bursts. Jake White was culpable as well, consistently extolling Ralepelle’s value but seldom backing that with game time.
Meyer has been honest with Ralepelle from the start, never leading the player to believe he had more of a chance than he actually did. And with every hooker fit, Ralepelle is, at best, fourth in Meyer’s pecking order behind Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Brits. Meyer told me on Monday that he doesn’t see Ralepelle as an impact player, which further undermines his cause.
‘I can’t speak for other coaches but I feel for Chiliboy,’ Meyer added. ‘This was the year I thought he would push hard for a starting spot. He had a chance when Bismarck was injured, but then he got injured himself, and when he came back he was on the bench for the Bulls while Adriaan got better and better. Then Tiaan [Liebenberg] came in and played really well. We’re blessed with some world-class hookers in South Africa. Hopefully next year Chili can play regularly and force his way back.’
I’ve spoken to some people close to the 26-year-old and he is deeply frustrated. This is understandable. In 21 Tests Ralepelle has played just 307 minutes, 125 of those against Italy and Namibia.
His contract with the Bulls runs until October 2013. It is a simple business decision if emotion is removed. Ralepelle should cash in with a European or Japanese club thereafter or negotiate an early release. In the absence of a Test future, and having won every title he can with the franchise, Ralepelle needs to be selfish and pursue a deal that would benefit him financially as well as a player and person. Either that or continue to be the world’s best paid crash-test dummy.