Chiliboy, Brüssow ready to face their demonsComment on this story
The Bulls will be fighting to gain maximum points to break their three-match losing streak and determined to stay in play-off contention while the Cheetahs are desperate for victory to have their best finish in Super Rugby.
But spare a thought for Bulls hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and Cheetahs flank Heinrich Brüssow who will have a dual mandate, to help their teams to victory and prove their worth to wear the Springbok jersey ahead of the Castle Rugby Championship.
There is no doubt that the focus at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow will be on Super Rugby but for Ralepelle it will be the perfect opportunity to settle the debate as to who is the better hooker for the Springboks – he or the Cheetahs’ Adriaan Strauss.
Ralepelle was undoubtedly the best hooker in the country at the start of the competition but his form faded somewhat as the Bulls lost two of their games, against the Highlanders and Chiefs, on their overseas tour. The slide in the Bulls’ form had a ripple effect on Ralepelle’s form as well and the Limpopo-born hooker lost precious ground to the Sharks’ Bismarck du Plessis and Strauss and that left him in limbo during the Springboks’ three-Test series against England.
The stage is now set for Ralepelle to face his demons, first a mouthwatering face-off with Strauss followed by another duel against Du Plessis next weekend when the Bulls play the Sharks in Durban.
While Ralepelle refused to talk about his match of redemption, his half-hearted smile spoke volumes of a man eager to give Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer sleepless nights with his team selection at hooker.
Ralepelle will be aided in his quest by teammate Wynand Olivier who will be looking to confirm his status as the best inside centre in the country on the day that marks his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the Bulls.
Then there is the free-spirited Cheetahs side where terrier flank Brüssow has a point to prove. After being overlooked for the series against England, he will want to send a reminder to Meyer that while the breakdown is still a grey area, he clearly stands out as the best fetcher in the country.
Bulls starting XV: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (capt), Jacques Potgieter, Dewald Potgieter, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, CJ Stander, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, Francois Venter.
Cheetahs starting XV: Willie le Roux, Philip Snyman, Robert Ebersohn, Andries Strauss, Rocco Jansen, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Ashley Johnson, Lappies Labus-chagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Izak van der Merwe, Andries Ferreira, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Hercu Liebenberg, WP Nel, George Earl, Justin Downey, Tewis de Bruyn, Sias Ebersohn, Nico Scheepers.