MAL­COLM IN THE MID­DLE

For­get the com­par­isons with Bismarck, Marx is forg­ing his own game in the ‘Green and Gold‘

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - DAR­RYN POL­LOCK

WHEN Bismarck du Plessis burst onto the in­ter­na­tional rugby scene, he tore up the man­ual on what it was to be a hooker and wrote down his own ex­plo­sive chap­ter. Not many have been able to fol­low that story of phys­i­cal­ity, ath­leti­cism and gen­eral dogged power, but has Mal­colm Marx cracked the code?

Be­fore Marx’s Ma­tric cer­tifi­cate, from King Ed­ward VII School, was even cool in his hands, the com­par­isons were al­ready be­ing made be­tween the Lions man and then Sharks cap­tain Du Plessis.

And Marx got his chance to rub shoul­ders with the for­mer Bok incumbent back in 2014 when the Lions Un­der-19 side were called in to as­sist with the Spring­boks’ prepa­ra­tions in Jo­han­nes­burg. Marx was named for­ward of the year in that side pre­vi­ous to this en­counter with the Bok hooker, so un­der­stand­ably his path to last week’s block­bust­ing per­for­mance seemed al­most pre­des­tined.

Af­ter be­ing named Man of the Match at Lof­tus, it would seem that Marx’s name is prob­a­bly the first on the se­lec­tion list this sea­son, and it is timeous that the young­ster has de­cided that he is ready to shine.

Last year’s an­nus hor­ri­bilis was down to im­mea­sur­able rea­sons, but delv­ing deeper into the mi­cro units, the hook­ing po­si­tion, was prob­lem­atic. Skip­per Adri­aan Strauss be­gan his tenure un­der the pump – his lead­er­ship was lack­ing, and his own gen­eral play was heav­ily scru­ti­nised.

Be­yond that, there was not much hope com­ing through to take over from Strauss. Bulls man Bongi Mbonambi was named as the man on the bench, but the bench is where he seemed to re­main as Al­lis­ter Coet­zee was not ready to re­move his cap­tain.

Fast for­ward to the new sea­son and young­sters Marx and Mbonambi no longer have to sit be­hind a player who checked out long be­fore the year came to an end. The pres­sure to be the incumbent has been thrust on the two hook­ers and it seems Marx has emerged as the one to take it in his stride.

Marx can be­come a vi­tal cog in the Bok for­ward pack and is the type of player that will in­stil the fear of God in op­po­si­tion go­ing for­ward, in this re­spect, he is very much in the mould of Du Plessis.

How­ever, we have moved on. The era of Du Plessis is over, and al­though he was the blue­print, Marx is build­ing a new hooker’s game on those foun­da­tions, his own game in a modern way. Marx is hard and abra­sive, but in­cred­i­bly clever and silky, and there is no bet­ter union for him to be at than the Lions.

Marx dropped his shoul­der and bossed some French heav­ies out the way at Lof­tus, but he also popped up in bro­ken play to make link­ing passes to speedy backs, some­thing not in the front-row hand­book.

The Boks have cho­sen a loose for­ward pack that is silky and light with War­ren Whitely, Siya Kolisi and Oupa Mo­hoje cur­rently start­ing, but to throw in a hulk­ing strong­man like Marx, who wouldn’t look out of place on the flank, and the Boks can add more and more strings to their bow.

But, and it is a rather big one, Marx needs to im­prove his line-out throw­ing. A hooker is noth­ing if they can­not make the set piece work, and Marx’s line-outs are still shaky. He felt the pres­sure in his first test last year, but looked sharper against the French. He has a long road to go for the coach, the cap­tain, and even the fans to have 100 per­cent con­fi­dence in his throws.

The man is young, and he is in a po­si­tion that only gets bet­ter with age, and the coach has hinted that he will let the green play­ers make their mis­takes, but Marx will need to im­prove his weak points, and ac­cel­er­ate his strengths. He prob­a­bly is not the next Bismarck, he is much more than that, be­gin­ning his story in the Spring­bok an­nals.

Bismarck was one of my in­spi­ra­tions when I was young. His on-field work rate was al­ways great; how hard he worked and what he did for the team in­spired me. He was def­i­nitely one of my role mod­els. I’m my own per­son ob­vi­ously, but it is good to have some­one like him to as­pire to be­cause he has achieved so much as a Spring­bok. Marx on Du Plessis

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