Sharks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle says a period of introspection was key to seeing him win his 100th Super Rugby cap this past weekend.
Ralepelle has enjoyed a solid season for the Sharks to date, and admits he had to re-examine his game closely towards the end of last year.
‘As an athlete, you strive to be the best and for me, I laid down the foundation, went back and relooked at myself in terms of my performances, looked at stats from last year to see what I’m capable of and what I need to do.
‘One thing I did was to work extremely hard with the conditioning coaches, working hard on the side.’
The 31-year-old said that he also paid lots of attention to the mental side of the game.
‘Previously I hadn’t, but things like the correct mindset and how you get yourself up for every game, for me that was an important element and something that has changed since last year.
‘I’m just looking to do my best in every game, making sure I’m sharp for every facet of the game.’
Despite facing plenty of competition at the Sharks from Franco Marais and Akker van der Merwe, Ralepelle says this is not necessarily a bad thing.
‘It’s been healthy competition, to the extent that we help each other – on and off the field. We guide each other and I try to help with the knowledge that I have, helping them to get better.
‘Akker has huge potential for South Africa, he’s a great rugby player who has been showing all year what he’s capable of. I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets an opportunity and I’m sure he’ll take it with both hands.’
Ralepelle also praised the family environment at the Sharks after reaching his milestone 100 caps last Saturday.
‘This is a group that I can call my family, and to run out for the Sharks for my 100th game was a very special moment. It was very emotional and when I referred back to my debut in 2006, it feels like yesterday. But if you’d asked me back then if I saw myself playing 100 Super Rugby games, I’d probably have said no.
‘It is a dream come true and something I’ve worked hard to achieve. I love this game, played in a wonderful spirit, with a great bunch of brothers.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images