Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold on Monday defended the decision to sign Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle despite the fact that he is serving a doping ban, saying other teams were also chasing his signature and that his suitability had been thoroughly investigated.
Ralepelle, who won two Super Rugby titles with the Bulls, was handed a two-year suspension by WorldRugby after an out-of-competition doping test in March 2014 returned a positive test for a metabolite of an anabolic steroid, drostanolone, he had used while recovering from an operation on an anterior cruciate ligament following a knee injury he sustained while playing for Toulouse against Biarritz in France.
“We have done due diligence and Chiliboy is very remorseful. He deserved his penalty, there is no excuse for what he did and he knows that, but he will have done his time in April next year, four games into Super Rugby.
“We weren’t the only people in the market for him and I hope he will do his talking on the field. He’s an outstanding leader, he’s matured as a player at 29 and he deserves a second chance. Personally I think he got a raw deal before going to France, it was very sad that he was let go. He’s an outstanding player and, while I was forwards coach for the Springboks, he put John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis under real pressure. His work-rate is sensational, he carries and drives well and his set-piece work is precise,” Gold told The Citizen on Monday.
Several critics have expressed their anger at the decision to sign the hooker with 22 Test caps between 2006 and 2013, but the double-standard is clear when one considers how Johan Ackermann, who was banned for two years in 1997 for taking nandrolone to help heal a knee injury, has been welcomed back into the fold and is doing great work as the Lions coach.
The new year will also see the Sharks sporting a new assistant coach in former Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez, who has just steered the North-West Leopards to the Currie Cup First Division title, and a new defence coach in Omar Mouneimne, who has worked with Italy, Edinburgh, the EP Kings and Lyon.
Highly promising Western Province lock Ruan Botha has been mentioned as another possible signing for the Sharks, but he is still under contract in Cape Town, although Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit’s move from Durban to the Stormers could see him eager to relocate.