Bongi Mbonambi's good performances has put his top of the pecking order. Photo: BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN 
 It’s amazing how the Springbok No 2 position has gone from an ‘obvious’ choice to a valid debate.

Malcolm Marx has had a grip so strong on that jumper in recent years that no other South African could come close.

Understandably so.

While Marx has enjoyed an undisputed reign thanks to what the explosive front-rower brings in the loose and at the breakdown, Bongi Mbonambi has moved ever closer to stepping out of Marx’s shadow and becoming a legit contender for the position.

Not even the biggest Marx fan would be able to honestly deny that Mbonambi has become a big factor at Springbok level.

The Stormers hooker has had a lot of criticism spewed his way. Despite that, he’s proved himself as more than just back-up to the Lions man.

And he hasn’t just done that by scoring those maul tries.

It’s easy to see Mbonambi’s value as an out-and-out hooker.

You can even make the mistake of limiting him to just that. But he can be a factor away from the set-piece as well. He’s shown it.

One thing that’s been particularly impressive about Mbonambi is how he’s delivered when it mattered in the last year or so.

He’s showed nerves of steel at times, particularly when it’s come to finding his jumpers in pressure moments - something that becomes even more impressive when you consider the troubles he’s experienced at the line-out in the past.

It’s an area where one can now confidently say he has the upper hand over Marx, who’s overall abilities have seen his primary work become almost irrelevant.

But Mbonambi doesn’t just make for a handy addition to the line-out. His big work rate also regularly sees him put in massive shifts on defence, while he also carries strongly and often hits the breakdowns.

Marx’s class can never be argued, but the dip he’s gone through recently would have been a valid enough reason to give Mbonambi the nod to start in the Boks’ final World Cup warm-up game against Japan tomorrow.

It’s understandable that Erasmus wants to fine tune his preparation ahead of their opener against New Zealand on September 21, but allowing Marx to work his way back to form off the bench could have been another way to go.

There’s probably no wrong call. There’s no explanation needed as to why Erasmus is backing Marx for tomorrow’s encounter.

Under the current Bok coach, Mbonambi has flourished and made great use of the chances he’s been given, despite the criticism.

It’s exciting to think of how much more he can do, because if he continues on this path, it’s guaranteed to be big. And that’s not debatable.

@WynonaLouw


Cape Argus