Chiliboy: Rugby players must speak out about broken system

Chiliboy Ralepelle believes the decision for him to captain the Boks in an ‘unofficial’ match against a World XV in 2006 was a ‘political call’ as he urged black rugby players to speak out about their experiences of racism.

In an interview with Sowetan Live, Ralepelle threw his support behind Proteas cricketer Lungi Ngidi, who has passionately spoken out about the ever-growing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Ralepelle, who was recently handed an eight-year ban after he tested positive for a banned substance last year, said it was time for rugby players to speak up about their own stories of discrimination and experiences of any failings in the system.

READ: Rugby coaches join BLM movement

‘It gives me goosebumps just thinking that cricketers are willing to stand up‚ but the saddest part is that rugby players tend to protect their agendas.

‘I have got nothing against that because everybody has the right to make their own decisions‚ but now it’s time whereby individuals need to step out of their shells and stand up for what is right.

‘This will help us preserve the future black generations of this country. It is important that black rugby players come out and they must not feel like they are offending the system because if the system is right‚ it should be standing for what is right in the first place.’

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As a trailblazer at the start of his career, Ralepelle captained the Boks in an ‘unofficial’ match against a World XV in 2006.

However, he questioned the rugby system and decision-making process that led to that appointment and, which he alleges, blighted parts of his career.

‘I don’t say that things should be given to people on a silver platter because we must all work hard towards our goals and ambitions. But if the system was not willing to give me game time‚ then why did they keep me? Why didn’t the system let me go from day one and said you don’t belong here‚’ Ralepelle said.

‘Why did they make me captain at the age of 20 knowing very well that I was never ready for that. I believed that it was a political call because how can I captain guys that I looked up to while at high school. I know of many black players who have encountered similar experiences as me‚ but some people are scared to come out because they want to protect their own agendas.

‘Black players are crippled with time and they crippled me by denying me time on the field. I persisted and when the system realised that we crippled him with time but he keeps on fighting and coming back‚ it put other things in my way.

‘If you look at my drug cases‚ in 2010 it was a year before the World Cup‚ in 2014 it was a year before the World Cup and in 2019 it was a couple of months before the World Cup. It’s a sequence for a movie.

‘When I look at the rugby system‚ it is very powerful for an individual, but if we stand up as a united front of people that care for black lives we can topple the system.’


Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis