Bongi Mbonambi is set to wear the No2 jumper against England this weekend. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Bongi Mbonambi is set to fill the hooker berth in the Springbok starting team when they take on England in the first of three Tests in Johannesburg this weekend.

Mbonambi only returned to action three weeks ago after undergoing emergency surgery on a burst appendix in February. He was a full-time member of the squad last season though, playing behind Malcolm Marx on most occasions.

Marx is unavailable for the series against England this month after hurting his knee in Super Rugby in early May. Also, the most experienced hooker in new coach Rassie Erasmus’ squad, Bismarck du Plessis, will only join his team-mates on Tuesday after playing for Montpellier in the Top 14 final in France at the weekend.

Erasmus said on Monday that Du Plessis, with 79 Test caps to his name, will only be considered for the second Test in Bloemfontein next week.

“You ideally want to pick a guy with some Tests behind him, but it is what it is,” he said in reference to not having Marx and Du Plessis available this week.”

“Bongi has Test experience, he’s always in top fitness, and he had an appendix problem, which is an internal thing ... it’s not like he’s had to go through rehabilitation on a muscle or something. He will be in the mix this week, and then I’ll have to choose between Akker (van der Merwe) and Chilliboy (Ralepelle). Bismarck will come into contention from next week.”

Bismarck du Plessis will only join the Springboks on Tuesday after playing for Montpellier at the weekend. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters

The other outstanding member of the squad of 43 who has yet to arrive in Johannesburg is utility back Frans Steyn, who also featured in the Montpellier versus Castres final. He will only arrive to join his team-mates on Wednesday.

“Both Frans and Bismarck will undergo exit medicals with their club in France and we’ll also monitor them when they get here later in the week,” said Erasmus.

“They won’t be considered for action this week. It won’t be fair on them as they haven’t trained with the other guys and it won’t be fair on the guys who’ve been part of the squad up to now. We’re also going to have to see where they are fitness-wise when they do get here.”

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Erasmus further stated that all 15 of the players who stayed behind in Johannesburg last weekend and didn’t travel to Washington for the Test against Wales would be involved in the Ellis Park Test. “And then we need a further eight players to make up the 23, so we have to decide on combinations and who best to use,” said Erasmus.

The Boks will be hoping for better weather conditions this weekend than that which they got in the US capital on Saturday, which Erasmus said forced them into employing a kicking game – something he doesn’t want his team’s to be known for.

“It was a frustrating match against Wales ... it was wet and humid and turned into a kicking battle,” said Erasmus in explaining the over-used box-kick tactics employed by the Boks in the 20-22 defeat at weekend.

“Playing the box-kick game is not the way we want to play ... that was weather-related. Hell no, I don’t want us to box kick all the time.”

The Bok boss added that while the performance in Washington was poor it would not rub off – mentally - on the men who stayed behind and who are in the running to start against Eddie Jones’ team on Saturday. 

“When you lose a Test your confidence does take a dip, but the good thing is the players who stayed behind weren’t part of that (in Washington). Their focus shifted to England straight after the guys left to Washington last week.” 



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