Who's hooking and who's looking

12 November 2017 - 00:00 By LIAM DEL CARME

Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee may have clarity about who he deems his number one No2 but at some point he may have to develop some contingencies.
In the Bok set-up it's been a case of who's hooking and who's looking for hookers Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi and to a lesser extent Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Marx and Mbonambi have both played 11 test matches, but they have played them very differently. Marx has racked up nearly 700 minutes (11 and three quarter hours) in the Bok jersey, while Mbonambi has clocked a shade over an hour-and-a-half.
The reason is simple.
Since making his debut in the cauldron of Christchurch against the All Blacks last year, Marx has been front and centre of the Bok scrum. He's had to wait for then captain, the affable but replaceable Adriaan Strauss, to step aside before he could make the position his own.
This season he has started every test, continuing the form he displayed for the Lions in Super Rugby. He is a player of impeccable ability on or around the ball. His impact in the collisions is immense and hard to ignore for anyone who assembles a team.
Mbonambi debuted before Marx. His first taste of test rugby came against Ireland in Port Elizabeth last year. His debut lasted a minute which was to set the tone for the rest of his international career, so far.
The last time he saw test combat was in the 57-0 defeat against the All Blacks. Add to that the fact that Ralepelle has been an unused substitute in the last two tests.
It is clearly not great for career development for the bloke on the bench but the apex of international sport can be a curious place.
Coetzee has espoused the virtues of continuity in selection this season. He has been under the cosh since last season's misadventures but he has brought some degree of stability in his selections.
Former Springbok No2 Owen Nkumane has a theory, which in the world of instant gratification would be dismissed as the flight of fantasy.
"I don't think Malcolm has anything to prove. We know what we have in him," said Nkumane.
"I would have rested him for this tour. He's had a long season and it will be beneficial to him if we are looking ahead to next year and the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"We'll have the opportunity to test Bongi at this level. If Bongi has something, we must be allowed to see it.
"What if something happens to Malcolm? Do we bring back a Bismarck du Plessis or a John Smit. They've done this before."
Nkumane, who has become a respected commentator, believes as much as the Boks have a clear frontrunner in the position in Marx, they also know what they have in Ralepelle.
"If something happens, we still have a guy who has the basics in place in the lineouts and scrums. He's certainly best when it comes to the basics between the three."
The former hooker also contends there are other options available to the Bok coach. "He's injured again but as a footballer, Scarra Ntubeni is head and shoulders above the rest. Then we also have a guy like Armandt van der Merwe."
For now though, few can blame Coetzee for merely living in the moment.

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