Marx out, what now?

Malcolm Marx’s mid-term hamstring injury has punctured the hull of the Springbok tight five. The AOR team debates who has the metal to patch the gaping hole for the June Test series against England.

Tank Lanning – Bismarck du Plessis
The man has 79 Springbok caps, 18 of which were in wins against New Zealand, England and Australia (6 apiece), was named SA Player of the Year in 2008 and 2011, and currently plies his trade in a World XV masquerading as a French club side.

His mom’s pencil line on the wall is 1.89m from the floor, while the reinforced bathroom scale on the farm just outside Bloem sets him at 112 kg (before his Sunday lunch) – exactly the same as Marx. Talk about replacing like with like!

Du Plessis also knows his way to the tryline, having scored 11 tries for the Boks. In 2015 – his last meaningful contribution to South African rugby, the bustling ball of muscle ranked seventh in Super Rugby with 15 pilfers, and second in the Rugby Champs with five turnovers. So again, the Boks would be replacing like with like, and it’s a contribution the men in Green and Gold simply cannot do without.

Du Plessis turns 34 next week, quite obviously toward the end of a simply stellar career, yet nowhere near past it. Victor Matfield was playing World Cup rugby at the age of 38.

It would definitely be a short-term plan aimed at next year’s World Cup in Japan – either as a replacement for Marx should he get injured, or together with Marx as an elder statesman providing much needed experience.

With an eye on the future, I would start Akker van der Merwe against Wales. Having only played an hour of Super Rugby this year, the angry warthog has clearly rubbed Sharks coach Rob du Preez up the wrong way. Which is a pity, because I could see this guy contributing to the Bok cause in a big way.

Zelím Nel – Adriaan Strauss
Marx is the real McCoy. We’re still searching for a scrumhalf who can be mentioned in the same book (never mind the same sentence) as Fourie du Preez, but in Marx we’ve got Bismarck du Plessis’ successor.

Du Plessis is, in my opinion, the best hooker in Bok history, but there’s almost no chance he’ll offer value as a wingman to Marx at next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Conversely, Strauss spent most of his career backing up Du Plessis and he’s rediscovered the 2014 form that had some pundits wondering whether he might wrest the No2 jersey from Bismarck.

Strauss was asked to herd cats under Allister Coetzee and the list of players who declared a rise in stock value during two of the worst Bok seasons is barely long enough to call it a list. It was a period that was so dark that Strauss went from leading South Africa to retiring from Test rugby.

John Mitchell has revived the 66-Test veteran this season, bringing him along slowly in a bench role for the Bulls during the opening rounds of Super Rugby that no doubt stoked the 32-year-old’s appetite for destruction.

Strauss offers experience, leadership value and set-piece credentials, and he’s got enough left in the tank to drive the Bok maul in Japan next year.

Marx’s withdrawal presents South Africa with a rare opportunity for the third-choice rake to fire live ammunition, but SA’s hooker pool isn’t exactly brimming with potential 2019 World Cup winners. That’s why I’d give Ashley Johnson a shot to prove that his big impact for Wasps in the English Premiership is transferrable to the Test arena.

Johnson, who turns 32 next week, is versatile, robust and mobile for a man of his dimensions and, if nothing else, will have first-hand experience of England’s squad.


- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    What now? First a stiff drink and mumble a few phrases you should say around small children. Then let’s focus on what we can do.

    Marx is such a monumental player that replacing him like for like is impossible. You will not find another hooker of his caliber in SA and probably the world. But if we have to replace him for the short term (i.e. this year only) it has to be Bismark. I would agree that Adriaan would be a better mentor and backup player, but with Marx injured we’re not looking for a backup player, we’re looking for someone to start in the number 2 jersey.

    So my opinion – Bismark to start, Akker/Johnson/whoever as backup to get a few minutes here and there (that person will probably be Marx’s backup at the RWC so will needs some Bok game time) and add Strauss as a third (he will potentially fulfill the mentor role at the RWC so will need some Bok time).

  • Rant

    Not great timing at all. Terrible for Lions and the Boks. But, it is what it is. And it could be the same thing next year just before or even during the World Cup. We need both a mentor and a youngster to build. In my opinion, Strauss does not have the BMT. He quit when the going got tough. He deserted the Bok cause when Coetzee was dragging them down instead of doing what John Smit and co did when Pieter De Villiers tried to destroy the Boks. No, Strauss should not be allowed to come back when hope is renewed. Bismarck is the man to mentor the youngsters.

    The best possible 3 (with current injuries) has to be Bismarck, Akker and Johnson. Simply, Bismarck has the experience and proven ability, plus he is playing very well in France. Akker is much like Dane Coles of NZ, he is quick and works blerrie hard. Johnson is vastly experienced and playing wonderfully for Wasps. He is a cult hero in England and can add a lot over the period we don’t have Marx and Mbonambi (my 2 first choice).

    Having said that, I would say for the World Cup next year, we have to have the following 3: Marx, Mbonambi and Bismarck. With Johnson on stand-by.

  • Barry Smith

    We should retread Thomas Du Toit to a hooker so we have versatility and options? I mean he plays 1 & 3 so he’ll why not 2? OK, sorry a bit tongue in cheek! To my mind the element of Marx that will be most missed are his fetching and mobility, frankly his line out throwing needs work, so this could be countered by placing another similar style player somewhere in the mix, making a direct like for like replacement less of an issue at 2. Bismarck would be my choice, but I suspect that Rassie will go for Strauss against Wales with Akker as reserve – Against England perhaps Bismarck!

  • Graham

    Ashley Johnson has been tested positive for banned substances so doubt he will be able to play, besides he is nowhere near the bok radar for me. I would love to see Bissy in the Bok jersey one last time! A young gun like Akker should be included, he could learn a lot for the likes of Bissy and Strauss. The 3 of them to rotate between Wales and England

  • Dean

    It’s a great opportunity to create depth at hooker. Otherwise Marx would have played every game and we wouldn’t know who is second and third in the pecking order. Bissie vs England for sure! He’s a champion. Akker for the Wales game and backup. Strauss didn’t look like a leader at all when the Bulls were getting pummeled by the Stormers on the weekend. The Bulls’ heads dropped and there wasn’t anybody who stepped up and got them firing, from a leadership standpoint.

  • Chris Mouton

    Bismarck for sure! No doubt about it. You need someone who is dynamic and abrasive. I agree with what was said above. Akker could be a great choice as he has a great workrate. Imagine how much Marx and Akker could learn from Bissie.

  • Kathleen

    Bismarck is the man !

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