Chilliboy – real player or political pawn?

Lawrence Sephaka (left) and Chilliboy Ralapelle (right).

In some corners, Chilliboy has been touted as the next Springbok captain while in others he is seen as only a political pawn to ensure the Springboks have a certain quota of players of colour. And to be honest, there are moments when the question cannot help but he asked. He is seen as the second choice hooker at the Bulls, behind Gary Botha, who had been in the Springbok frame and gone to the 2007 World Cup but was ousted by Bismarck du Plessis when he was selected as the replacement in the squad for Pierre Spies, the 8th man. Gary Botha signed on for London Harlequins and moved on after the World Cup but Chilliboy was still seen as the number 2 and was pushed back at the Bulls by a converted flank, Derick Kuhn.

Chilliboy is now in the void somewhere between the 2nd or 3rd choice hooker in the Springboks, depending on where John Smit will be playing. But then John Smit himself is an enigma as he is the most capped Springbok captain of all time and can play in all three of the front row (the only player in the world at the moment who holds the distinction – it’s an important fact that not many people seem to grasp). John Smit’s ‘understudy at the Sharks is Bismarck du Plessis, who is seen as being the best hooker in the world at the moment.

John Smit barrelling over a helpless British and Irish Lion

It’s difficult not to believe that Chilliboy shouldn’t start for the Springboks. However, the fact that he doesn’t even start in the Bulls makes it difficult to even believe he should be in the Springbok squad at all. The sad fact is that I believe that Chilliboy can be one of the best in the world if he could get regular game time instead of warming the bench for 99% of the season. There is even some history between John Smit and Chilliboy, who is sometimes seen as the heir-apparent to the Springbok captaincy in the near future. Chilliboy, like John Smit, went to Pretoria Boys High School to play his rugby. But if the rumours are believed, John Smit sponsored his school fees while he was there so he could get a proper education. There is another hooker who learned his rugby at PBHS in the Bulls Squad, Henry Bandjies, so it would appear as though, Pretoria Boys is the school which produces hookers.

Anyone who knows school rugby will know there is a proud tradition of rivalry between Pretoria Boys High and Affies which is basically across the street. As a schoolboy at PBHS you hear of the tradition of rivalry and raids performed by the pupils on the other schools in years gone by. So by the time the big derby comes around, there is a vibe around the school which can only be compared to the week before the Final in the World Cup or Currie Cup. Everyone in the school in psyched up for the confrontation. When John captained the team against Affies, his team lost by record score 63 – 10 or something along that line. When Chilliboy captained the team (in Standard 9), his team was the first team from PBHS to beat Affies since 1981 or somewhere in that vicinity. It was huge and one only had to watch the game to know that Chilliboy was destined for great things.

There were rumours at the end of last year that the Lions were keen on signing Chilliboy and I hoped he would sign and move across the Jukskei. But for some reason he didn’t sign or the Lions never did offer him the position, the hooker behind Chilliboy, Bandise Maku, moved across to the Lions. It wouldn’t surprise me if Maku leapfrogged over Chilliboy into the Springboks while Chilliboy has to be content with sitting on the sidelines.

Unfortunately, at the moment he is only a political pawn but if he could get more consistent game time, he would be able to say he deserved to be wearing the green and gold.


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