Super hooker to replace Marx

Simnikiwe Xabanisa

A week ago, one of those YouTube videos that are forever clogging up one’s phone landed in my WhatsApp.

Said video was a “masterclass” by former Bulls and Springbok hooker Henry Tromp and ex-Bok coach Ian McIntosh on throwing in to the lineout. Even for a lineout philistine, the only thing master about the class was the fact that Ian Mac has a habit of calling everyone master because he forgets their names.

Apart from an insistence that the hookers should hold the ball in the middle like Bismarck du Plessis, there were precious little other pearls of wisdom from Tromp – and the fact that he didn’t hit the target once didn’t seem to matter.

Yet, with the Springbok hooker “crisis” sparked by Malcolm Marx’s hamstring injury, one can’t help but feel like the retired Tromp has as good a chance of being in contention to replace him as any active hooker in the country.

It’s a gross exaggeration but some seriously left-field names have crept out of the woodwork since the announcement of the extent of Marx’s injury. The scary thing for the likes of Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe, Ramone Samuels et al is that you’d swear there were no hookers playing in Super Rugby week in and week out.

Besides the “get Bissy back and get Adriaan Strauss out of retirement” campaigns, which had picked up steam over the last month or two, Schalk Brits only half-jokingly put up his hand on Twitter this week, while some loon mentioned the Hurricanes’ Ricky Riccitelli as an option simply because he was born in SA before leaving for New Zealand at the age of four.

Few countries are beholden to reputations and retired players like South Africa, it’s almost as if the more retired or out of sight you are the more your stocks rise. We’re such a good old days country sometimes I think one has a better chance of being picked while sitting in a Randburg Studio than doing the hard yakka on the field (ask Victor Matfield).

Du Plessis’ situation drips with irony because, for a couple of years towards John Smit’s retirement, we wouldn’t pick him when we should have, now we want to pick him when we shouldn’t. No disrespect to Bissy, but by the time he left for Montpellier he was already not the same beast who had wreaked havoc in international rugby.

As a colleague memorably said this week, sometimes we’ve got to accept when the ysters are ys-koud.

That said, Strauss’ case is a little different because he’s playing well in Super Rugby while in international retirement. But the question to ask is whether his performances tower over those of the next unretired hooker whose name isn’t Marx?

If the answer is no, then surely the active hookers must be given time in the saddle to stake their claim in the dogfight to be Marx’s number two. Too often in the past we have invested in an older or retired player who gained more from the experiment than the Springbok team.

Fourie du Preez’s return from retirement is a classic case in point. He may still have been the best because he was a once-in-a-generation player, but his presence papered over the yawning crack marked “no successors”, and to this day Bok rugby still suffers from a short-term solution made as far back as 2013.

We keep getting told Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has 18 Tests to whip his team into shape for next year’s World Cup. The question is, should he invest those Tests in getting Warrick Gelant, Damian Willemse, RG Snyman, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi ready for the World Cup, or in hoping one of the recalled players proves they’ve still got it?

I’m as mindful as anyone of what a brief stint overseas has done for the likes of Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, but most of the time there’s a good reason players retire or leave. Just ask Henry Tromp.

- Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Let's chat

  • Gerhard Botha

    I cannot disagree with you more. Neither Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe, Ramone Samuels or any other Superugby hooker – that is excluding Strauss – is good enough to play International rugby. Making Springbok colours cheap is what will happen if we do have them playing test rugby. Our scrumhalve problem is due to playing players thats is not International standard like Rudy Paige and Ross Cronje. Rather play retired International standard player than just filling the position with younger players not up to standard.

  • Warren

    I’d like to see Britz get a crack

  • Simon Clements

    I’m not sure you could call Bismarck retired.
    Just ask yourself, other than Marx, who would the kiwis not want to face?

    • Redge

      Bisvark!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dean

    Ramone Samuels is 2nd in line at the Stormers, Bongi will take over from him when he returns. Chilliboy recently lost his place to Akker, who has only played one full game this season. How do you pick a Springbok hooker to start a Test match with those sort of credentials. Bismarck is a proven Test player and class is permanent. Let’s not cheapen the jersey again by picking players who are not quite ready yet or the best. How many players did AC pick based on Super Rugby form in his tenure, who were sorely shown up at Test level. Rhule, Skosan, Coetzee, Leyds, Cronje, Cassiem, Dreyer, Mohoje, Paige all come to mind. There’s a massive difference between Super Rugby form and being Test level ready.

    • Herman Schroder

      Hi Dean, have responded below, Cheers.

  • Herman Schroder

    Hi Dean, you seem to forget that Alistair Coetzee was the coach when those four Lions players you mention were supposedly ‘exposed’ when playing for the Boks. AC couldn’t coach a flea to jump imo. SR is tough and those four players were part of a team that played in two consecutive SR finals despite the dominance of the kiwi teams. They had the skills to play the modern game AND had the gees and attitude to beat the best of the best which incidentally you can’t buy at Amazon.

    Those golden oldies from Heyneke Meyer’s disastrous Bok tenure had their chances and should be left on the shelf. HM’s last two years were only marginally better than Coetzee’s two years in ‘power’ and he had all the golden oldies to draw on. I do however have no problem bringing back Faf de Klerk but then again Rassie mustn’t try and play the old conservative rugby that brought the Bok jersey into disrepute these past four years.

    If we wan’t to be ready for the WC then pick the best of the local players who have the necessary skills and temperament for the expansive game NOW and not hope that the ‘oldies’ will save the day next year. HM tried it and it failed horribly. Cheers.

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