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'Why wasn't Malcolm Marx out there?': Kiwi pundits question Boks selections

By Sam Smith
Malcolm Marx of South Africa during The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand at Mbombela Stadium on August 06, 2022 in Nelspruit, South Africa. (Photo by Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

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New Zealand pundits have questioned the decision to bench star hooker Malcolm Marx for the second test against the All Blacks after their defeat in Johannesburg.

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The 50-cap Springbok was influential last week at disrupting the breakdown coming up with three critical turnovers that disrupted the All Blacks ball.

With regular hooker Bongi Mbonambi also out injured, the Springboks gave the start to Joseph Dweba who was playing just his third test match.

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Former Blues and Leinster midfielder Isa Nacewa said on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown that the surprising decision likely came back to South Africa’s quota system.

“Why wasn’t Malcolm Marx out there from the get go? This probably goes back to the quota system that they have,” Nacewa told The Breakdown.

“Bongi Mbonambi got injured but how do you not have Marx on the field? His impact came immediately when he got on the field.

“It is a pretty intricate and condeluded system they have, probably second-to-none in the world around how the actually select there team.

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“They know very early on in the week when the team is named and there is a rigour-more with process that actually goes through that.

“But someone like Malcolm Marx and the influence that he has, you have got to have him on the field.”

Dweba’s shaky start included a miscue at the lineout with his first throw pinched just moments into the game after an All Blacks error sent the ball into touch.

After the Springboks failed to gain total ascendency at the scrum, Dweba was substituted half an hour into the game for Marx while starting props Ox Nche and Frans Malherbe were benched shortly afterward as well.

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Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber explained the call to pull Dweba as ‘privileged’ information but did say there is always a rugby reason behind the substitutions.

With a 6-2 bench split, he said they have the players to utillise and will always make the decision if they feel the job is done or not being done to a standard required.

“There’s always a reason – a rugby reason why we did that, but that’s privileged,” Nienaber said.

“The players all know [the reason]. Every single player knows why we went that route and there’s a very logical reason why we did that.”

“Like I’ve said before, players have a specific job to do and the moment they’ve done their job or they’re not doing their job anymore, that’s when we take them off.”

“The moment we see a drop in that, because we have six forwards on the bench, we will do the substitution.

“And I think that’s where we differ from other teams. We do things a little bit differently.”

On the other side the All Blacks rolled the dice with a younger front row that stood up and held their own, bringing in two new starting props from the side that lost in Mbombela.

Ethan de Groot at loosehead was playing his sixth test, hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho had 12 tests and tighthead Tyrel Lomax had 15 tests before Saturday’s match. Young Crusaders prop Fletcher Newell made his test debut from the bench.

The inexperienced front row unit was praised by captain Sam Cane and head coach Ian Foster for their performances.

“For those guys to start in that test match, without a doubt the biggest test that they’ve had in their careers,” Cane said.

“To perform the way they did was awesome. I’m really stoked for those guys, it makes for some really healthy competition going forward.”

Foster said the team has been working hard to fix their set-piece which he revealed has been a problem for five seasons

“You have to play well in that space. And to be honest, it’s probably been our Achilles heel in recent years going back to 2018 when it started,” Foster said.

“We’ve been working hard in that space. There was some new players in that space that were pretty special. Ethan de Groot is not brand new but I was really proud of his game today.

“Tyrel Lomax, first start in a big test for him and the likes of a Fletcher Newell, a superb young man, what a place to play your debut.”

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