JOHANNESBURG – It was really only a matter of time before Bongi Mbonambi forced his way into the Springbok starting team.
The regular back-up man to Malcolm Marx has performed so well from off the bench - and in the few starts he has had - that coach Rassie Erasmus could no longer justify keeping him on the bench. Mbonambi has simply played his way into the starting XV at the Rugby World Cup in Japan rather than Marx doing anything wrong to be relegated to the bench.
The Stormers man will deservedly wear the No 2 on his back against Italy in the crucial Pool B match on Friday in one of three changes to the “first choice” Bok side that faced the All Blacks in their opening game in Yokohama. Joining Mbonambi in the starting team are veteran prop Tendai Mtawarira and lock Lood de Jager.
Mbonambi has been one of the Boks’ form men under Erasmus in the last two years and has now edged ahead of Marx in the pecking order. The 28-year-old, who scored two tries from the back of the maul against Namibia last Saturday, has produced impressive numbers in several areas of the game in recent times.
Mbonambi is a grafter, who’ll get stuck in at every ruck and maul, and he’ll bring a different kind of energy to the Bok game. He’s also a highly-rated scrummager and line-out thrower.