Mbonambi tested to the limit as he waits for game time
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.
OPTIMISTIC Bongi Mbonambi hopes to get a run in the Bok jersey soon