The 2nd Article in the set discussing the Vodacom Bulls.
In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Vodacom Bulls 2013 Super Rugby group, and what their worth will be in Super Rugby terms.
Name: Mahlatse “Chiliboy” Ralepelle:
After a full season of Super Rugby in 2011, South Africans finally understood the hype that surrounded Ralepelle as a star at junior levels. Injuries seemed to be a thing of the past and the well-spoken player was revelling because of that in Super Rugby 2012. Towards the business end of 2012 Chiliboy was injured again and having gotten over his injuries toured to the Northern Hemisphere with the Springboks. He however did not get game time on tour, suggesting there was still a niggle or two and / or the National coach was worried about his form.
Immensely strong in the scrums and deceptively quick in open play, Ralepelle will be keen to establish himself again as one of the foremost hookers in the country.
He made his Bulls and Springboks debut in the same year. Indeed, just a few months after making his debut for his province in 2006, he won his first international cap as a replacement at his home ground at Loftus Versfeld. However, despite his rapid ascent up the rugby ladder, he could not force his way into the World Cup squad the following year.
In 2008, though, he was named on the tour of the UK and Ireland and made history when he became the youngest and the first black player to captain the Springboks when they met the World XV at Walkers Stadium in Leicester.
The following year he was named in the South Africa squad to play the British & Irish Lions and he started the third Test in Johannesburg, which resulted in a 28-9 defeat for the home side.
Ralepelle was included in the Springbok squad for their end-of-year tour of Great Britain and Ireland in 2010 but both he and Bjorn Basson were sent home after testing positive for a banned stimulant following the victory over Ireland in Dublin. Both players were immediately suspended from all rugby pending further investigation.
Name: Willie Wepener:
Wepener is one of the real warriors in the game and after an impressive Super 14 season with the Lions in 2009, was scouted by French champions Clermont for their Top 14 and Heineken Cup campaigns. Aggressive, mobile and with a high work rate, Wepener will be in demand everywhere and it was no surprise to see the Bulls jumping at the chance to bring the veteran hooker back to South Africa.
Willie is solid enough as a Super Rugby player but all indications are that he’ll play second fiddle to Chiliboy Ralepelle in the battle for a starting berth.
Springbok prospects for Willie Wepener is hardly likely, there are just too many quality hookers in South Africa ahead of him in the queue for that to happen. His experience in Super Rugby and in the hard forward-oriented battles in the Northern Hemisphere for Clermont will stand the Bulls in good stead in the coming months.
Name: Bongi Mbonambi:
The youngster, who has distinguished himself in the SA Under 20 squad in 2011 and before that for 2 years at SA Schools level got the opportunity to play Provincial and very limited Super Rugby in 2012.
It is clear which way the career of this Eastern Free State born player is heading. Very strong and mobile with a low centre of gravity, Mbonambi could be the surprise package of the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Name: Callie-Theron (Callie) Visagie:
He represented the MTN Lions in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup in 2012. He previously played for Western Province in 2010 and 2011 and captained Maties in the Varsity Cup.
Callie is a product of Paarl Boys High School.
In a struggeling MTN Lions Super Rugby side, Callie was steady without being spectacular and is one of the MTN Lions loan players at the Bulls for Super Rugby 2013.
The players named and described above does not include the regular Vodacom Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup hookers or the Blue Bulls U/21 hookers, but as I’ve said before, I will limit discussion to players who WILL feature in Super Rugby in 2013.
The Bulls are virtually assured to start with Chiliboy Ralepelle, with Willie Wepener on the bench. Callie Visagie and Bongi Mbonambi will fight for a bench spot as rotation in Super Rugby is bound to test sides, including the Bulls beyond two hookers.
The next Article in the range will deal with the Bulls locks.