Bok Test in Dublin: Why it’s good to see Marx in the No 2 jersey
There is little to choose between the world class Marx and Mbonambi, but it is concerning there is no-one standing out behind them.
Malcolm Marx has remained the Boks’ starting hooker, even though Bongi Mbonambi is again fit. Picture: EPA / Darren England
Out of all the selections for the Test against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday the one that pleases me the most is that of Malcolm Marx at hooker. In the absence of the injured Bongi Mbonambi, Marx showed just what a phenomenal player he is during the Rugby Championship; certainly among the best in the world. I am happy he will wear the No 2 in Dublin because his form has warranted his selection and he is being rewarded for his quality performances in the Rugby Championship – exactly how it should be. ALSO READ: Boks and Ireland have moved…
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While we are blessed to have an equally good hooker in Bongi Mbonambi, who has never let the Bok side down when starting, it is up to him now to win back his starting place. It is that good competition and desire to be the first choice that puts Marx and Mbonambi ahead of the rest.
However, I don’t think there’s any pecking order at hooker. Rather, I think the coaches back themselves to pick certain players to start or play off the bench, depending on the opposition and match.
Mbonambi may well start next week, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The thing is that in recent Tests Marx has been a beast and his influence on the game simply cannot be ignored — if he’s not stealing ball or winning penalties at the breakdown, he’s carrying the ball over the gainline or stopping the opposition’s momentum in the mauls. And, he’s pretty accurate in throwing the ball into the lineout, too.
But while the Boks are blessed to have Marx and Mbonambi in their ranks, it is a little concerning that there is no third-choice hooker who’s cemented his place in the queue for the No 2 jersey.
I still think Joseph Dweba can be that man, but he will have to improve his throwing, while Deon Fourie is a back-up only in case of an emergency as he is a loose-forward.
The Bulls’ Johan Grobbelaar is injured and we don’t quite know how he will go at international level, while the two young SA A hookers, Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Andre-Hugo Venter, are raw and untried against top-class international opposition.
The other position in the Bok set-up where there is not too much depth is outside centre.
However, overall, the Boks will send a quality 23 into battle with Ireland.
The pack is a seriously powerful unit, while the backs are as exciting as they’ve been in a long time. With Cheslin Kolbe at fullback and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the wing and with Damian Willemse at 10 the Boks have got some real X-factor in the backs and it should make for a thrilling performance. Let’s hope they’re all allowed to have go!
I’m really looking forward to this Test. They’re two quality teams who’ll be desperate to beat the other, and for the Boks it’s a match that will set the tone for the tour. It’s a tough one to call so excuse me please, but I’ll keep my prediction to myself this week.