It is set to be a grand occasion for Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx when he leads out the team in his 50th appearance in the opening match of the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.
Marx follows in the steps of fellow hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who made his 50th appearance in the third Test decider against Wales, with Marx now taking his place in the starting line-up for the weekend’s clash.
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“We always want to make it special for players if it’s possible, because it isn’t always possible, but if a guy plays a milestone Test match it’s nice to start them,” explained Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.
“That’s not to say that we won’t rotate, like we have done in the front row in the past, but in this specific game it is nice to start a guy achieving a significant milestone.
“Our front rows work as a unit together, they have specific roles that they have to fulfil, so we are confident that Malcolm will fulfil his role as a starter and Bongi will fulfil his when he comes off the bench.”
The other changes to the starting line-up from the team that faced Wales a few weeks ago sees Kurt-Lee Arendse take over on the wing from the injured Cheslin Kolbe, while Faf de Klerk rotates back in to scrumhalf, with Jaden Hendrikse dropping to the bench.
The only other change in the match 23 sees lock Salmaan Moerat come onto the bench in place of Elrigh Louw.
“Kurt-Lee performed well in that second Test against Wales and there are a lot of similarities between his game and Cheslin’s, so we are getting a like-for-like player. We are also rewarding performance because I thought he was great,” said Nienaber.
“With Faf, he has been with Us for a long time. We have won big games with him in the past, like the World Cup and British and Irish Lions series. So it’s good to have him back in the mix. I think we will need him and his skillset in this particular game and that’s why we decided to go with him.”
Looking at the challenge of the All Blacks, Nienaber was asked if the Bok management had taken anything useful out of their series loss to the Irish in New Zealand.
“Ireland is a quality side, they pitched up with intensity and their execution and the plan they had was good. But that’s the thing, we are not Ireland, we are not Leinster, we don’t play like them,” admitted Nienaber.
“So the main thing we took out of that series is that whatever plan you decide to tackle the All Blacks with, you will have to bring intensity and accuracy in that plan. “