Marx for Currie Cup? It’s not ideal...

2017-10-10 14:00
Malcolm Marx (Gallo)

Cape Town - Malcolm Marx, just on the strength of his near-perfect display for the Springboks against the All Blacks last Saturday, could be described as currently the most valuable ace up the country’s international sleeve.

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So would it really be wise, and in the national interest, for the pile-driver hooker to be fast-tracked into Currie Cup action this weekend?

What we know is that Lions coach Swys de Bruin is entitled to do exactly that: rapidly-emerging Marx’s contract with the Boks reportedly only comes into effect in 2018, so in the interim he is among those Test players who can filter back into the advanced stages of the time-honoured local competition.

But the Currie Cup, sadly, also simply doesn’t have the gravitas it once did, increasingly stripped not only of premier Test players these days but also those customers who, for example, undergo lucrative stints in Japan between Super Rugby seasons.

It has, like it or not, become primarily a development tournament with the view to preparing franchises - at least those who have dual involvement - for the next Super Rugby campaign.

I guess we have a case here of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, because those who still hold the Currie Cup dear - and gates suggest it is a dramatically fading lobby, even though television interest remains more buoyant - naturally would welcome any infusion of the cream of international stars to those increasingly humble ranks.

Weighing against those noble thoughts, however, are the ongoing needs of the Springbok team, who in less than a month head off for the obligatory end-of-year tour of the northern hemisphere - a four-game undertaking that will go a very long way to determining whether Allister Coetzee’s regime can be judged to have had a successful or unsatisfactory year as a whole.

“Toetie” will desire, and understandably so, a fresh and hungry bunch of players to work with - the next few weeks could be so productive in allowing certain hard-pressed Boks, particularly those in the bruising world of forward play, to undergo conditioning work only.

Marx would ideally fall into that category, as his robust qualities will be absolutely vital in the assignments on possibly heavy pitches against Ireland, France, Italy and Wales respectively.

The 23-year-old has also been one of the most taxingly-employed players in the Bok team of late, given his booming qualities: he started all six Rugby Championship fixtures, and played the overwhelmingly majority of the 80 minutes every time.

To suddenly see him pop up in the advanced stages of the Currie Cup - the final is scheduled for October 28, a fortnight before the difficult Bok tour opener in Dublin - just seems an unnecessary risk, an all too obvious exhaustion/injury threat in national terms.

But spare a thought for the dilemma of De Bruin, who is bound to be sympathetic to Bok requirements but also has the job of ensuring his Lions, this Saturday at home to the Cheetahs, make the semis cut (quite possibly still a home one, too).

If he is able to make use of the juggernaut Marx - plus other Boks like Ruan Dreyer and Ross Cronje, also eligible - why wouldn’t he be greatly tempted, especially as a professional coach’s success is so often measured in the stark, brutal area of silverware in the cupboard?

After all, the defending champion Cheetahs, uniquely punching in two competitions simultaneously, seemingly intend making use of a few of their PRO14 players at Ellis Park, as there is a recess for them in that event - they are also pushing fiercely not to elbowed out of the last four.

A personal wish, against this uneasy, less than wholly desirable backdrop to things, is that the Lions stick primarily to the players who have served them to this juncture; a particularly youthful combo impressively downed a more seasoned Western Province side only a few days ago in rain- and hail-lashed Johannesburg.

Would it be asking too much for the home team to “load their bench” with various returning Boks who are up for a dollop of domestic action, and only infuse them judiciously if the tussle looks too dangerously like going the visiting way?

The Lions could, of course, potentially start the game with the No 2 chore in the dependable, experienced enough hands of someone like Robbie Coetzee.

The last thing pretty long-suffering Bok enthusiasts, freshly emboldened by the bravery of the Newlands display against the world champions, want to read over the next couple of weeks are website headlines or newspaper billboards screaming: “Marx injury ... out for two months” or the like.

Right, over to you then, Swys ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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