Chiliboy’s return imminent

Former Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is a strong contender for the Sharks’ touring squad that will head overseas on Sunday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The Sharks will face the Lions in Durban on Saturday before beginning their travels to face the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs in New Zealand, with director of rugby Gary Gold set to announce a 27-man touring squad on Friday.

Having joined the Sharks before this season, Ralepelle has been hard at work in training over the past few weeks while seeing out the final stages of his two-year suspension for a doping violation, which will end on 10 April.

So far this season, Franco Marais has predominantly started at hooker, with Kyle Cooper providing backup, but Gold said he certainly saw value in having three hookers in the touring group.

‘Chiliboy will be available to play from next weekend and I’m very nervous to go on tour without three hookers. I’ve been bitten badly with that before when someone in a specialist position like that pulls up on the morning of a game, and suddenly you’re left in a spot of trouble. So it certainly warrants consideration.’

Gold will also have an interesting selection decision to make when it comes to his loose forward options, with almost-forgotten former Springbok Jean Deysel continuing to impress in training, while Philip van der Walt should also be available to tour after recovering from a neck injury.

Meanwhile, the likes of Pat Lambie (shoulder dislocation), Jacques Potgieter (ankle injury) and Ruan Botha (hip labral tear) are all expected to be available once the Sharks return from tour.

‘We will need to be sensible how we integrate players returning from injury, but it will be good to have some more quality additions to our squad when we get back,’ Gold commented. ‘Pat is running, and doing pretty much everything besides taking contact. With that kind of injury it’s just about giving it time to let everything heal well, but he’s coming along very nicely.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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