Ralepelle leads SA into new era

A century ago, Paul Roos led the first touring Springbok side to a 29-0 win over a Midlands XV at Leicester.

On Sunday, Chiliboy Ralepelle will captain South Africa against a World XV in the same English city and make his own indelible mark on history.

Twelve years after the official death of apartheid, Ralepelle will become the first black African to captain the side and, at 20, the youngest as well.

Had South Africa not overcome world champions England 25-14 last week, after a record 32-15 defeat by Ireland and a 23-21 reverse in the first Test against England, Ralepelle would not have been able to take the reins from John Smit in such benign circumstances.

As it was, Jake White survived a grilling from South African rugby’s powerful Presidents’ Council in Cape Town on Wednesday and returned to the United Kingdom on Thursday to resume coaching the side for what will be the final match of their tour.

Having at least beaten England at Twickenham for the first time since 1997, a positive result at the Walkers Stadium is not of such paramount importance.

Instead the players can get down to the business of making money. Festival matches such as these are renowned money-spinners and South Africa are playing their second game against a World XV this year.

In June, the Boks put on a lacklustre performance to overcome the World XV 30-27 at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park but Sunday’s outing against former Australia coach Bob Dwyer’s outfit should be a more entertaining affair.

The Boks have retained only five players from the side that beat England last Saturday and what remains is a mainly youthful team with a host of attacking players.

With the World XV boasting 523 caps, Dwyer is not short of exciting players, including New Zealand’s Justin Marshall, flanker Johnny O’Connor from Ireland and France’s Thomas Castaignede.

But the spotlight is set to be on Andy Farrell, the former Great Britain rugby league skipper, who is playing his first major representative union match since switching codes.

England, having suffered their worst run of form in decades and having forced Andy Robinson out of his job as national coach, are desperate for positive news and Farrell comes closest to fitting the bill.

Although there has been speculation over where best to utilise him—either in the back-row or at centre—he will be in midfield on Sunday.

Castaignede said Saracens team-mate Farrell had it in him to be the “next Will Greenwood”, a reference to the now retired England centre who was a key member of the 2003 World Cup-winning team.

“He’s got character, strength and the physical abilities. He just needs to practise at the highest level to play against the best teams, and he has the chance to do that this weekend,” Castaignede explained.

England, however, are not only in seach of a new coach and midfield playmaker but possibly a captain as well with Martin Corry’s position under threat ahead of next year’s Six Nations.

An obvious candidate to replace Corry would be Lawrence Dallaglio, his predecessor as the Test team’s number eight and himself a former England captain, who will lead the World XV on Sunday.

Dallaglio’s squad includes former Boks Thinus Delport and Cobus Visagie. While Delport is unlikely to play in another World Cup, Visagie was quoted as saying it was his dream to represent South Africa in France next year.

At the Walkers Stadium, the Saracens tighthead prop will be able to press his case in front of his compatriots. - Sapa-AFP

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