That’s right, folks. In the interests of the Boks actually gaining anything from this tour, Mahlatse Ralepelle needs to start in the number 2 jersey on Saturday, with his mentor, John Smit, continuing at tighthead.
The 22-year-old is being groomed as a long-term successor to Smit as Springbok captain and has showed at age-group level that he is a special player. His inclusion in the tour squad was controversial, in that he has played very little rugby this year, due to injury. Seeing as Smit is on the tour as a tighthead, Ralepelle is the official hooker backup to Bismarck du Plessis. Given the latter’s unavailability, his deputy must be given the opportunity to start. If not, then why the hell was he brought on tour in the first place?
Perhaps even more important, though, is the result of the Smit tighthead “experiment”. In hindsight, it was a mistake to not have Ralepelle on the bench against Scotland, as the 5th-minute injury to du Plessis meant that Smit’s prop adventure had to be curtailed before it had even begun. In order for us to learn anything at all about Smit’s suitability for the position of first-choice number 3, he needs to start in that position against England and play there for at least an hour.
The Boks are short of a quality front-ranker going into this test, even if Brian Mujati is passed fit to play. He did show in the Super 14 that he is a capable loosehead, though and it is in this capacity that I would employ the Zimbabwean, if at all, on Saturday. With Jannie du Plessis on the bench and able to dominate opposition on either side of the scrum, we have exactly the safety blanket we need. Give Chilli an hour to show that he’s got what it takes. After that, John can move to hooker and the Doctor can provide added impetus in the final quarter.
We lose nothing by backing Rallepele to start. If we leave him on the bench and move Smit back to hooker, we learn nothing that we didn’t already know. It’s as simple as that.Tweet