The Lions may have failed to make a mark on the rugby field for some time now but their new-found ambition for success could see them raid the Blue Bulls kraal of one of their rising stars in Springbok Chiliboy Ralepelle.
The deal could also apparently see the hooker become the new Lions captain.
Vata Ngobeni reports for The Pretoria News:
Ralepelle earlier in 2009 renewed his contract with the Bulls for another two years but the Bulls’ decision to re-sign former Springbok hooker Gary Botha from English club Harlequins has possibly soured what seemed like a matrimony that could have seen Ralepelle become the first African captain of the Bulls.
However, the Bulls are adamant that Ralepelle is going nowhere and that an offer by the Lions for the hooker will be a direct contravention of rugby laws as he is still under contract to the Bulls. Also permission has not been granted by the Bulls for negotiations to take place.
Nevertheless, Ralepelle’s legal team which consists of top lawyer Ferdie Hartzenburg, who is also Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’ legal representative, have apparently been hard at work trying to find a loop hole in the players agreement with the Bulls. This after Botha’s signing which could see Ralepelle not automatically become the Bulls No.1 hooker.
The past two years have been frustrating for Ralepelle after he recovered from an injury that sidelined him for 18 months but also saw him fall down the pecking order behind Derick Kuun, who will next year move back to flank.
It seems that the assumption was that Kuun’s move would open up the door for Ralepelle to finally start in the No.2 jersey for the Bulls. This would give him the opportunity to prove his worth as the second-best hooker in the country by virtue of him being second in line in the Springbok team.
“Ralepelle is contracted to us until 2011. There has been no breach of contract with the commitments we have agreed to with Chiliboy. If he is injury free and the best then he will start and will get his game time. Nothing has happened and any claims of such a breach are ridiculous.
“If there is a request to talk to him then it is a decision we will have to make. We signed him because we believe in his ability and he can be one of our leaders in the team,” said Blue Bulls Company High performance manager Ian Schwartz on Tuesday.
Schwartz, however, did confirm that there had been informal talks between Lions CEO Manie Reyneke, who would not comment on the issue and BBC CEO Barend van Graan but nothing materialised.
Newly appointed Lions director of rugby and Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir would not be drawn into confirming the Lions desire to sign Ralepelle.
“I don’t know much about what is happening at the Lions and Manie Reyneke would be the best person to talk to,” Muir said.
The Lions have already made inroads in the Bulls kraal with the acquisition of flyhalf Burton Francis, Louis Boshoff and Marius Delport but the significant signature would be that of Ralepelle.
The Bulls have already lost star wing Bryan Habana to Western Province and the Stormers, former Springbok Wayne Julies to a French club and upcoming Emerging Springbok wing Rocco Jansen to Eastern Province.
The proposed deal from Australian Super 14 outfit, Western Force for the Bulls latest Springbok hooker Bandise Maku fell through which raised concern at Loftus that an exodus of their rising black rugby talent is imminent.
“That is obviously a concern. But out of the 26 players we have released in the past two years 18 have been white. Sometimes we release players for the good of their careers. They then have the chance to become No.1 in their position somewhere else Chiliboy, however, is one of our products,” Schwartz said.
It has emerged that there is also interest from the Sharks to sign Ralepelle in light of word that key members of the Springbok starting team might be withdrawn from playing in the 2010 Currie Cup.
Ralepelle was the first African player to captain a Springbok XV two years ago against a World XV in Leicester and will lead the Springbok second string on Friday in their opening match of the end-of-year tour against Leicester.Tweet