JOHANNESBURG - There is something to be said about a player who has survived through the tenure of five Springbok coaches and has managed to stay relevant for 12 years in the national team.
Such a player may not really need to prove their worth but not for Chiliboy Ralepelle who has been handed another lease on his longstanding Springbok life with a start in Saturday’s Test against Wales in Washington DC.
And Ralepelle is not taking the chance for granted and is as every bit excited to prove to Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, his teammates and the rest of the country that he still has what it takes to be amongst the best hookers in the business.
“It is a great and wonderful opportunity that I have been waiting for the past two years. It is something that I will take with both hands and I’m looking forward to the challenge and the excitement that lies ahead,” said Ralepelle on Wednesday ahead of the team’s departure for the USA.
The 31-year-old Ralepelle will indeed look to impress in the Test against Wales especially with the Springboks number one hooker Malcolm Marx out injured and the position being up for grabs.
But Ralepelle realizes that he won’t just walk into the position and will have to fend off some serious competition from veteran Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, Sharks teammate Akker van der Merwe and long-time adversary Bongi Mbonambi.
“In South Africa we are privileged and blessed to have great players in all positions. The hooking position is one of the positions that has been highly competitive over the years and one of strongest positions as well," he said.
Pieter-Steph du Toit will captain a young Springbok team featuring seven uncapped players in the starting line-up against the @WelshRugbyUnion at 23h00 on Saturday evening (SA time) in Washington DC. @USARugby #LoveRugby pic.twitter.com/dwMEfTSywF
"For me to be part of the special few is a great privilege and one challenge thing that keeps me on my toes and never in a comfort zone because the next guy wants the position as much as you do. It makes us better people and the competition better all round.”
The Springboks will be looking at getting better this time around against Wales compared to their two previous outings which saw them come short.
Even though Saturday’s Test falls outside the international Test window and Erasmus has selected a largely inexperienced team, Ralepelle believes that the onus is still on them to perform well and lay down a marker for the upcoming home series against England.
“I guess it is a great challenge for us as a team. It is the first game of the season and one game where we want to stamp our mark. We are playing a good Wales side and they will be up for the game as much as we will. It is one game that we want to go and prove a point,” Ralepelle said.
Since his debut in 2006 against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld, Ralepelle has seen and experienced it all and he appreciates and respects that as much as the game remains the same, the faces will come and go if they don’t prove their worth to the side.
“The game never changes. The only thing that changes is the personnel itself. People change and there are new dynamics and youngsters and the dynamics of the team changes in that aspect,” said Ralepelle
“Yes I am happy but you can never be satisfied. Being in this team; your best is never good enough, you always have to find something extra in making sure that the team performs. At the end of the day it is not about I, it is about the team and the greater goal that we have which is the 2019 World Cup.”