Mbonambi tested to the limit as he waits for game time

CityPress - - Sport - ADNAAN MO­HAMED sports@city­press.co.za

Bongi Mbonambi’s child­hood dream to be se­lected for the Spring­boks was re­alised two weeks ago when he was named in the match 23 for the first test against Ire­land at Newlands.

Since then, the 25-year-old hooker from Beth­le­hem has sat on the bench for 160 min­utes and has been pa­tiently wait­ing for his op­por­tu­nity to make his test de­but. The prob­lem is that Mbonambi plays the same po­si­tion as newly ap­pointed Spring­bok cap­tain Adri­aan Strauss. Strauss has not played par­tic­u­larly well in his first two out­ings as cap­tain. It’s hard to be­lieve, but the sta­tis­tics show that the Bulls hooker did not make a sin­gle tackle in the first test. Last week in the sec­ond Test at El­lis Park in Jo­han­nes­burg, he only man­aged to make two tack­les. De­spite the cap­tain’s poor form, Bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee has been re­luc­tant to give Mbonambi a chance to show his worth. It seems Mbonambi will have to fol­low the same route as Bok hook­ers be­fore him such as Chili­boy Rale­pelle and Hanyani Shi­mange, who al­ways had to play sec­ond fid­dle un­der for­mer Bok cap­tain John Smit. Mbonambi was on Thurs­day again in­cluded on the bench for yes­ter­day’s third test against Ire­land at the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Sta­dium in Port El­iz­a­beth. The fiery hooker is, how­ever, aware that he will most prob­a­bly only get his op­por­tu­nity if Strauss picks up an in­jury or if he is subbed. “When I first made the match 23, I was chuffed be­cause it’s a mas­sive hon­our and a huge op­por­tu­nity just to be part of a test match,” he quipped in an in­ter­view this week. “If I get a chance, even if it’s for a few sec­onds or five min­utes, I will sprint on to the field and tackle the first thing that moves.” Mbonambi at­tended Pretoria’s St Al­ban’s Col­lege, made his first class de­but for the Grif­fons in 2007 and then joined the Bulls from 2008 to 2014. Last year, he moved to the Storm­ers and es­tab­lished him­self as one of the best hook­ers in the coun­try. Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni have been ro­tated in the Storm­ers squad as hook­ers. This year, Mbonambi has, how­ever, had a bit more game time than Ntubeni. He be­lieves this has helped him to main­tain his form and show what he is ca­pa­ble of. Mbonambi says when Coet­zee told him he was in the match 23 for the first test, he was over the moon. “When I first heard the good news, I just kept quiet for a while. I for­got to say thank you to the coach. I walked into my room and a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. The first per­son I called was my mum, Sheila Mbonambi. She and my fa­ther were both ob­vi­ously ex­tremely ex­cited. They came to El­lis Park last week to watch the test.” The for­mer SA Schools player says he was pre­vi­ously in­volved in Spring­bok camps where there were hook­ers of the cal­i­bre of Bis­marck du Plessis, Strauss and Ntubeni. “In South Africa, there is never a short­age of hook­ers and the com­pe­ti­tion will al­ways be there. I have now been given an op­por­tu­nity. And when I run on to the field, you can be as­sured that I will give my all and grab it with both hands,” he added.

PHOTO: JO­HAN RYNNERS / GALLO IM­AGES

OP­TI­MISTIC Bongi Mbonambi hopes to get a run in the Bok jersey soon

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