In heart breaking news, South African supporters found out that Malcolm Marx, possibly the best hooker in World Rugby, has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby World Cup. The size of the blow to the Bokke is immeasurable and there is no one that offers the same physical presence, nor breakdown potency of the Springbok hooker.
The question now is, who will be called up to replace him?
“He’s been working very hard to be in the best form possible for the tournament, and it’s tragic that his campaign has ended this way. As a team we will remain in contact with him, as we do with all injured players such as Lukhanyo, Handre and Lood, and support him as much as we can through the recovery process."
The Springboks initially selected two specialist hookers in Marx and Mbonambi, with Deon Fourie listed as cover up front and in the loose trio. Joseph Dweba was not included in the 33 man squad assembled, but he is well established in the Bok set up, having been in the side since the British & Irish Lions series.
Lets start with Bongi. He will captain the side this weekend and is immense in the Green & Gold, so we are in a fortunate position that the number 2 jersey is well catered to. The 16 jersey is now where the problem lies. Bongi was a starter in the 2019 final and I back him fully to make a huge contribution during the tournament.
Deon Fourie is listed on the bench at hooker for this weekends clash with Romania. What is important however to note, is that Fourie has never played at hooker at international level and therefor remains an untested quantity of sorts. Fourie offers similar prowess at the breakdown to Malcolm, and Branna's is well versed in the dark arts of the turn over, his value in the Bok squad has certainly shot up over night. What we won't know until Sunday however, is whether or not he can cut it in the set pieces as a member of the front row. Here's hoping he can.
Joseph Dweba is a unit, he is a massive player and brings a lot of physicality to the game. His omission from the squad however was likely due to his fallibility at set piece. His throwing at the lineout in particular has come under the spotlight and was badly exposed by the All Blacks at Ellis Park in 2022. A game that saw him yanked from the field with just over 20 minutes player.
The interesting development in the Bok set up this week has been a video released of Marco 'Eskom' van Staden practicing his throw-ins. This is quite absurd as I don't believe he has any experience in the front row. What we do know however is that the duo of RasNaber is not averse to experimenting and taking bold risks that do seem to pay off more often than not.
Interestingly, Jacques Nienaber has indicated that they won't immediately call up cover for Malcolm, and this is likely due to them waiting to see how Deon fares in his first outing in Green & Gold with the #16 on his back.
“We have enough cover at hooker with Bongi [Mbonambi] and Deon [Fourie] in the squad, while Marco [van Staden] has also been training there and has been named on all our team sheets so far as a hooker option. We’ll assess our needs for the rest of the tournament and confirm who we are calling up as an additional player later this week.”
whilst I would consider it excessively risky to not have a 2nd specialist hooker in the squad such as Dweba, if Deon comes through unscathed, and they really feel Marco can provide cover in an emergency. We may just see the boldest selection call of all come to fruition.
If the Bok management do feel they are sufficiently covered at hooker, my bet is on a call up for Handre Pollard, a player we know the side is desperate to have in France. Either way RasNaber have a head scratcher ahead of them. Let me know in the comments what your selection call would be?