Springboks

Coetzee: Mbonambi deserves his chance

2017-11-24 08:47
Bongi Mbonambi (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Bongi Mbonambi has quietly gone about notching up 12 Test caps for the Springboks over the past two international seasons. 

Yet, on Saturday when the Boks take on Italy in Padova, the 26 year-old-old will start a Test for the first time in his career. 

It hasn't been easy going for Bok hookers over the last two years, with the exception of Adriaan Strauss and Malcolm Marx. 

In 2016 Strauss captained the Boks through their worst ever year and coach Allister Coetzee was seldom keen to give anyone else an extended run off the bench. 

This year, Marx has been sublime and has made the No 2 jersey his own. 

But with the physical Lions man out with a shoulder injury this weekend, Mbonambi and Chiliboy Ralapelle will finally be given a proper crack in Bok colours. 

Ralepelle, who last played a Test in 2013, was included in two Rugby Championship match-day squads this year without getting on the field at all. 

Coetzee, after naming his team for Saturday, explained his selection thought at hooker, adding that he was pleased for Mbonambi. 

"Malcolm Marx is still on his rehab plan. He's done well and come through nicely. He took part in all activities except contact," said Coetzee.

"It's a great opportunity for Bongi Mbonambi to start ... he deserves a start and he's really been playing well at Currie Cup level, especially in the semi-final and final."

The coach lauded the work that Mbonambi had been putting in behind the scenes, saying he had looked good in training. 

Coetzee then also justified the selection.

"I know there will be a lot of question marks over how good he will be, but I rate Bongi highly as a player," he said.

"I know that given the opportunity, he will take it. I've got no doubt about that.

"He's a good rugby player and he fits in well with our plan ... it's just that he has been playing behind Malcolm Marx, who has been in superb form."

Coetzee knows that he will be getting very different qualities from Mbonambi on Saturday compared to what Marx has given him this year.

"They're not the same hookers, but Bongi comes with his own strengths to the team," said Coetzee.

"Bongi's defensive ability is very good. His primary role is to make sure that we still have an accurate lineout and he's also a great scrummager.

"At training this week he has been throwing in superbly and we've got good lineout options there.

"He is not renowned as a good ball carrier but he can take the ball up when we need him to ... his biggest asset for us is to play towards the ball and make sure we secure ball.

"He's got an engine ... he doesn't stop playing. You'll see him making double contributions in defence and I'm looking forward to seeing what he brings."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 16:00 (SA time).

Teams:

Italy

15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian Mckinley, 23 Matteo Minozzi

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

 

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