Marx better than Bismarck – Solly

Alan Solomons

The Springboks got progressively worse during the 2016 Rugby Championship and, when they were hammered 57-15 by the All Blacks at King’s Park last October, all the confidence seeped out of them. Fast forward eight months, and a team that was once totally devoid of confidence clinched a series against France at the same stadium in fine fettle.

What has led to the turnaround after eight defeats from 12 Tests last term?

Having had more time to prepare this season and attended a number of training camps, the Springboks are definitely better organised as a team. There is much greater clarity on roles and systems in both attack and defence.

In particular, Allister Coetzee’s charges have shown much improvement on attack. If they build an innings in the third Test, I foresee them hammering France in the final 20 minutes. They are well capable of putting 50 points past the French.

While France possess some really good players and on their day are capable of causing an upset, they are not a top-class international team, as their world ranking of eighth shows. I really felt that if South Africa got it together against France they would have no difficulty beating the tourists. France don’t have the conditioning, consistency, decision-making and discipline that is required of a top-flight international team.

When Nick Mallett was coaching Stade Francais (from 2002-2004), I believe the FFR missed a trick by not getting him involved with the national team. The sage decision would have been to appoint Mallett and name Fabien Galthie as his assistant, who could have been groomed for the head coaching role.

That said, South Africa’s entire coaching staff deserves credit because they have engineered an impressive turnaround after the annus horribilis in 2016.

The Springboks took a real knock during the Rugby Championship and on the end-of-year tour, but what I have seen over the last two Tests is really positive and the Springboks have to keep building on it. The Rugby Championship will be pivotal in this side’s development, but I believe the Boks have the beating of Argentina and Australia – the latter were poor in succumbing to Scotland in Sydney.

The Springbok pack has really impressed and it is only a matter of time before Steven Kitshoff steps into the breach for Beast Mtawarira, who has played for a long time and is probably coming towards the end of his career. A front row of Kitshoff, Malcom Marx and Frans Malherbe is one which excites me. Kitshoff has the ability to develop into a top-flight international loosehead prop.

Meanwhile, with one year of more experience under his belt, Marx has developed into a fantastic player. By the end of the season, I predict Marx will be the best hooker in world rugby. Bismarck du Plessis is a superb player and fine athlete, but Marx has the ability to be even better than him. He is an exceptional athlete and footballer.

In terms of the back division, Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies have complemented each other well. The fact that they play together at Super Rugby level makes a huge difference. With Cronje on his inside at international level, Jantjies’ decision-making and game management has improved markedly.

Francois Hougaard is set to replace Cronje in the third Test his partnership with Jantjies will be crucial in releasing the massive pace the Springboks have on the wings in Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule.

There is always work to do as a collective. However, as the Springboks build confidence they will get better and better.

If you were to assess the lie of the land in world rugby, South Africa are probably the third best team at the moment (World Rugby rankings aside).  New Zealand and England are first and second, but from what I have seen from the Springboks so far this season they are third.

The key for the Springboks to become number one in the world lies in their ability develop their skill execution and decision-making under pressure.

Solomons served as the Kings’ director of rugby from 2010 to 2013 and drove the revival in the region. The former Springbok assistant coach spent just over three years in charge of Edinburgh and led the team to the 2015 European Rugby Challenge Cup final. He most recently offered his expertise as a coaching consultant to Bristol in the Aviva Premiership.

- Alan Solomons

Let's chat

  • Geoff

    Sorry Solly to disagree but only time will tell whether Marx can get better. Are you the same guy that recommended to Mallet that Bobby Skinstad was better than Teichman? That probably cost us the World Cup.

  • Nick

    Geoff bru.

    Solly said, ‘By the end of the season, I predict Marx will be the best hooker in world rugby. Bismarck du Plessis is a superb player and fine athlete, but Marx has the ability to be even better than him. He is an exceptional athlete and footballer.’

    YOU SAID; ‘Sorry Solly to disagree but only time will tell whether Marx can get better.’

    What is it you are disagreeing with?

    Cheers.

  • dbaggins

    Thanks Solly
    Always good to get these insights from top coaches. I also think we are third in chasing pack behind the AB’s. But even though Ire don’t play as dynamically, they do execute very accurately and play a game devoid of any risk. Teams like that tend to do well over long periods.
    Except for the AB’s the margins between teams has become a lot less, result could be that individual game changers like Marx will become even more valuable.

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