‘Big Dog’ and young bucks line-up for Springboks front row spots

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi

FILE - Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

Published Mar 12, 2024


The Springboks’ first alignment camp of the year concluded last week and the 43 players who were invited would have been eager to impress ahead of a busy international season that kicks off in June.

Coach Rassie Erasmus invited a mixture of young and experienced players, with no European or fit Japanbased players available.

This past week IOL Sport has looked at the backs and loose forwards who had the chance to state their case at the camp, and today we look at the front row in the final instalment. It’s another area where South African rugby overflows with top-class players. Erasmus will have plenty of players to select from come the June and July Tests against Wales, Ireland, and Portugal.

The Springbok scrum has set the standard in international rugby for the last couple of seasons, and their ability to replace a monster front row with players of equal ability currently distinguishes the South African scrum from that of other Tier One nations.

Various veterans will look to put in a big shift for the Boks in 2024 as they approach the end of their careers, while some young bucks invited to the camp will be raring to make their mark should they get a Bok nod.


Malcolm Marx:

The Japan-based hooker was at the camp due to an injury and his contribution to the new hookers will have been invaluable for Erasmus and Co. He should recover in time to take up the hooker jersey against Ireland.

Bongi Mbonambi:

The ‘Big Dog’ still has a couple of seasons to offer the Springboks and he will be keen to kick off the international season on a high after his injury disappointment early in the World Cup final. He looks in fine form ahead of the Test season.

Johan Grobbelaar: This is hopefully the season the Bulls hooker will make his debut at international level. He is a complete hooker who can follow in the footsteps of Marx.

Marnus van der Merwe: The Cheetahs player was recognised for his good play even though his side is not regularly competing. It shows how much the Bok coaches rate him.

Jan-Hendrik Wessels: His transition from prop to the middle of the scrum did not come without hiccup, but he’s going at a pace that is satisfying to Erasmus.

Tighthead Frans Malherbe:

An injury during the World Cup has curbed his participation on the field, but he has been training and is in the Stormers’ plans for the URC and Champions Cup, so he will be game-ready. He is the Boks’ anchor and will be needed against the Irish.

Vincent Koch: Another injured double World Cup winner, but he should be nearing a return for the Sharks.

He’s not been part of the regular front rowers, but at 33 years old, he can still contribute to the set-up.

Neethling Fouché: He is in his prime as a tighthead prop and based on current form, one of the best scrummagers in the URC. His work off the ball is another of his strong points.


Ox Nche: The World Cup winner is a Bomb Squad regular, but he is pushing Steven Kitshoff for the starting berth. His scrummaging is his strong point, but on attack and defence, he displays his all-around abilities perfectly.

Gerhard Steenekamp: He has been strong for the Bulls in the URC, and with one Test cap behind him, will look to build on his current form to come into contention for the international season.

Ntuthuko Mchunu: He is another one-Test Bok who will be eager to tally up on the caps. Mchunu is a devastating runner with deceiving pace, but he also knows how to climb under his opponent at scrum time.


IOL Sport