Rugby Championship

Mbonambi left to warm the bench - again

2016-08-29 13:28
Adriaan Strauss (Gallo)

Cape Town - To say that there are concerns over the current state of South African rugby is a gross understatement. 

Saturday's 26-24 loss to Argentina in Salta has, naturally, not gone down well with a passionate rugby public that has been vocal on what needs changing in the current Bok set-up.

Concerns at flyhalf, the lack of a clear game plan and debate over team selection have all been high up on the list of talking points throughout the mid-year Ireland series and the two Rugby Championship matches to date against the Pumas.

Another concern for many fans is the form of captain Adriaan Strauss.

Named as skipper for the year, Strauss has been ever-present in the Bok set-up since Allister Coetzee took over as coach. 

Rightly or wrongly, the 30-year-old has been on the field for 398 of the 400 minutes of rugby that the Boks have played under Coetzee. 

The result is that back-up hooker Bongi Mbonambi has become the ultimate Springbok bench-warmer. 

The Stormers hooker has been named as a substitute for all five Tests under Coetzee, but he has only played a couple of minutes - literally - after he earned his debut against Ireland in the third Test in Port Elizabeth.

It is a particularly interesting decision from Coetzee given that Strauss is not considered to be playing his best rugby at the moment, while the policies of the other nations in the Rugby Championship are very different. 

Argentina and Australia are both captained by their hookers - Agustin Creevy and Stephen Moore. 

But, despite being the leaders, both of those players are generally replaced on or around the hour mark as their coaches look for some extra drive from the bench. 

Coetzee, though, is backing Strauss to play 80 minutes almost every time. 

It could be because he is desperate for leaders when the going gets tough, but it certainly doesn't inspire much faith in Mbonambi. 

In last year's Rugby World Cup, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was harshly criticised over how he used substitute scrumhalf Rudy Paige in the 3rd/4th place playoff against Argentina. 

Paige replaced Ruan Pienaar in that match with just a couple of minutes remaining, and Meyer was seen as not giving players of colour a chance in the green and gold.

Coetzee, meanwhile, has his own transformation targets as Bok coach and he has been instructed to ensure that half of the squad is made up of players of colour by the 2019 World Cup.

The form of Lions hooker Malcolm Marx in Super Rugby this year has also made him a fan-favourite for Bok colours, but given what we have seen from Coetzee so far this year, there appears to be little space for anyone other than Strauss.

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01 October 2016
South Africa v Australia, Pretoria 17:05
02 October 2016
Argentina v New Zealand, Buenos Aires 00:10
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South Africa v New Zealand, Durban 17:05
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