Malcolm Marx during the 2017 Incoming Rugby Series between South Africa and France at Loftus Stadium. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
DURBAN - When Bismarck du Plessis burst onto the international rugby scene, he tore up the manual on what it was to be a hooker and wrote his own explosive chapter. 
Not many have been able to follow that story of physicality, athleticism and dogged power, but has Malcolm Marx cracked the code?

Before Marx’s Matric certificate, from King Edward VII School, alma mater of Bryan Habana and Joe van Niekerk, was even cool in his hands, comparisons were already being made between the Lions man and then Sharks captain Du Plessis.

When Marx was 19, only three years ago, he measured in at 188cm, just a centimetre shorter than the imposing Du Plessis, and was already weighing more than the Bok powerhouse, 113kg compared to Du Plessis’ 112kg.

But it was the the way in which Marx played the game in a position that was always seen as the “third prop”.

Coming of age, it is easy to assume that Marx was studying and modelling his game on Du Plessis during the youngster’s formative years.

In fact, Marx rubbed shoulders with the former Bok incumbent back in 2014 when the Lions Under-19 side were called in to assist with the Springboks’ preparations in Johannesburg.

Marx was named forward of the year in the Under-19 Lions and his path to last week’s blockbusting performance seems predestined.

Last year’s annus horribilis was down to immeasurable reasons, but delving deeper into the micro units, the leadership, and hooking position was problematic.

Skipper Adriaan Strauss began his tenure under the cosh when the Boks lost against Ireland in the first match of the year – his leadership was lacking, his own general play heavily scrutinised.

Beyond that, there was not much hope coming through to take over from Strauss.

Bulls man Bongi Mbonambi was named as the man on the bench, but the bench is where he stayed as Allister Coetzee was not ready to remove his captain unless absolutely necessary.

Mbonambi had no chance to stake a claim in the Bok Jersey last year, and when Marx was thrown in the deep end, his line-out throwing was under pressure.

Fast forward to the new season and youngsters Marx and Mbonambi no longer have to sit behind a player who checked out long before the year came to an end.

Allister Coetzee coach of Springboks. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Marx can become a vital cog in the Bok pack, a pack that used to be feared the world round. Du Plessis, Schalk Burger, Bakkies Botha and Juan Smith have been replaced by Etzebeth, Du Toit – and Marx.

Marx is the type of player who will instill fear into the opposition – in this respect he is very much in the mould of Du Plessis.

Remember when the former Sharks man tackled Dan Carter so hard – legally – that the referee yellow-carded him?

The era of Du Plessis is over, and although he was the blueprint, Marx is building a new hooker’s game on those foundations. He is hard and abrasive, but incredibly clever and silky.

Marx dropped his shoulder and bashed some French heavies out the way at Loftus, but he also popped up in broken play to make linking passes to speedy backs, something not in the front-row handbook.

As an all action-hooker Marx is going beyond the call of duty. The Boks have chosen a light loose-forward trio, with Warren Whitely, Siya Kolisi and Oupa Mohoje currently starting, but to throw in a hulking strongman like Marx, who wouldn’t look out of place on the flank, and the Boks can add more and more strings to their bow.

But, and it is a rather big but, Marx needs to improve his line-out throwing. He felt the pressure in his first Test last year, but looked sharper against the French. The man is young, and he is in a position that only gets better with age, and the coach has hinted that he will let the green players make their mistakes.

He probably is not the next Bismarck, he is much more than that, beginning his story in the Springbok annals.


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The Mercury

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