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South Africa Names First Black Captain of National Rugby Team


South Africa has named the first-ever black captain of its national rugby team. VOA Southern Africa Correspondent Scott Bobb spoke by telephone with Mahlatse Ralepelle, who is with the team in England, preparing for a game Sunday.

South Africa's Mahlatse Ralepelle is set to make history Sunday, when he takes the field as captain of the Springbok in an international friendly match against the World team in Leicester, outside of London.

Ralepelle, who goes by the nickname Chiliboy, told VOA by telephone that, becoming captain was an opportunity, but he downplayed the significance of his role on the team.

"I believe I've got 22 captains. Every guy is a captain in their own right. That takes away a whole lot of pressure away from me," he said.

At 20 years old, Ralepelle is also the youngest captain ever. But he has experience.

He captained South Africa's under-19 and under-21-year-old teams to world championships last year.

The 100-kilogram hooker from Tzaneen, 400 kilometers northeast of Johannesburg, is robust for his age and considered a rising star. However, Ralepelle said his young age has made little difference to his teammates.

"We've got so much dignity and so much respect for one another," he said. " And I was very fortunate enough to have received the respect from all the older players and respect from the G.M. (general manager)."

Ralepelle will hand the captain's band at halftime to another young teammate, 21-year-old Gary Botha.

South Africa's rugby team is currently ranked fourth in the world and, with its youth and strength, considered a contender for next year's Rugby World Cup.

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