Boks boast Bismarck 2.0 in Marx

2017-06-13 09:51
Malcolm Marx (Gallo)

Cape Town - Ahead of the ongoing French series, there were strong reports that Springbok veteran Bismarck du Plessis would be back in the green and gold in June. 

It would have made sense. 

Adriaan Strauss had retired from international rugby and the Boks were crying out for experience having endured a disastrous 2016. 

With Strauss gone, there was no seasoned hooker to fall back on for coach Allister Coetzee with Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx having just five and two Tests to their names, respectively. 

The Du Plessis inclusion would have given the Boks a rare injection of a player who is used to winning with the national side. After last year's disappointment, there aren't many of those left.  

Instead, Coetzee left the 33-year-old in France despite another solid season with his club, Montpellier. 

"I took note of his performances in France, but I just felt that in Malcolm Marx I have a hooker here at home who is delivering top-notch performances and showed he will definitely not let the team down," were Coetzee's words when he announced his squad for the series. 

It is early days yet, but indications after the first Test in Pretoria are that the coach made exactly the right call. 

Marx was simply superb against the French, picking up a man-of-the-match award along the way as the Boks won 37-14.  

His strong running and general physicality make him a warrior, in much the same way that Du Plessis has been for the Boks over his 79-Test career. 

Marx is an animal; he thrives on contact and is as solid as they come. On Saturday he made 79 metres in just 8 carries, including 3 tackle breaks. 

The one area where it looks like he needs to improve is in his lineout throwing. He missed a couple of jumpers on Saturday and that was also noticeable in his first two Tests last year. 

That said, the Lions boast the fourth-highest lineout completion percentage in Super Rugby this season, so perhaps it is just a case of settling down at international level. 

But the biggest plus is that Marx is just 22-years-old; 11 years Bismarck's junior. 

If he is this good now, there is no telling how good he will be in the years to come. He needs to be nurtured, protected and, most importantly, kept in the country. 

Mbonambi and Chiliboy Ralepelle are the two back-up hookers in the squad at the moment, and while Ralepelle does have 22 Boks caps to his name, the last of those came in 2013. 

In an ideal world, Marx would benefit most from sharing a changeroom with Du Plessis as the baton is passed. 

For that reason, a Du Plessis inclusion in an extended Rugby Championship squad might not be such a bad idea. 

It is always difficult to justify bringing overseas-based players over to South Africa if they are not going to feature on match-day. 

If Du Plessis was willing, though, I'd get him involved in some way even if only to spend some time with Marx and share a few stories and experiences. 

They are similar players with similar roles to play in this Bok side, except one of them has done it all before and the other is just starting out. To not have them feed off each other seems a waste. 

It does remind of the unique balancing act that Coetzee is faced with, though. 

Transformation targets remain. 

And while nobody can fault the inclusion of Mbonambi given that he has done nothing wrong in his short Bok career, including Bismarck without him actually playing would be a big call from Coetzee. 

Bismarck's Bok career may not be over just yet. But, if it is, then the emergence of Marx in the No 2 jersey should seriously soften that blow. 

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Debate rages! Who is the greatest ever Springbok hooker ... John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis or someone else perhaps?

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