Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold says there were sound rugby reasons behind the recruitment of former Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
With Ralepelle still serving a ban for a doping violation, many rugby followers reacted with shock when the Sharks recently confirmed the signing of the 29-year-old, who will have completed his two-year suspension by 10 April.
However, Gold said the signing had to be seen in context, with the Sharks needing to add some depth and experience at hooker after the departure of stalwart Bismarck du Plessis.
‘We wanted a South African player who also had some international experience, and in many ways it is a like-for-like replacement in that Chiliboy similarly plays almost as a fourth loose forward, while his basics and set-piece work have always been very good,’ Gold explained. ‘When Chiliboy went to the World Cup in 2011 along with Bismarck and John [Smit], he shot the lights out with regards to his work-rate and rugby ability around the park.’
Ralepelle, who earned 22 Test caps for the Boks and spent some eight years at the Bulls, moved to France in 2013 to take up a contract with Toulouse.
Yet, at a time when the front rower was recovering from a serious knee injury, he tested positive for banned anabolic steroid drostanolone in an out-of-competition doping control test back on 19 March 2014.
After plenty of time for introspection, Gold said Ralepelle was extremely remorseful, and was determined to make a positive contribution at the Sharks.
‘From a rugby point of view I don’t think anyone can question the merits of his signing. This signing is in no ways an endorsement of what he did, there is no excuse for that and he knows it, but as a rugby player we are confident he can add a lot to the team.
'Chiliboy is very remorseful, he made a mistake, but he will have served his time by April, just a few rounds into Super Rugby, and as a rugby player we are confident he can add a lot to the team.
'He’s an outstanding leader, and an experienced player who has performed at the highest level. He’s matured as a player, and at only 29, he deserves a second chance.’
Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP Photo