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