Ex-South Africa head coach has ‘Question mark’ about Springbok squad

“Have you ever considered giving a motivational speech?” After the Springboks’ victory over Romania on Sunday, John Smit, the captain of the 2007 South Africa rugby team that won the Rugby World Cup, questioned Nick Mallett in jest.

“I have, and I’m very good at it,” Mallett said.

“I’m a realist as well. Being optimistic while yet being naive is very different.

The former head coach of South Africa and Italy had just outlined the reasons for his differing opinion from Smit and fellow SuperSport pundit Victor Matfield over the Springboks’ hooker choices.

South Africa decided to call up out-half Handre Pollard after their preferred hooker Malcolm Marx was forced to withdraw from the competition due to a knee injury.

The only remaining possibilities for lineout throwing are loose forwards Dean Fourie and Marco van Staden, with Bongi Mbonambi serving as their primary hooker. Sunday’s 76-0 victory over Romania featured lineout throws from Fourie and Van Staden.

Due to the fact that Romania is Romania and they are not the best squad, Mallett remarked, “I tend to see the glass as half empty in this situation.”

“[Romania] had essentially given up the lineouts by the time those men started to shift into the hooker position, and they weren’t contesting. At two ball, we also took a lot.

When Ireland is under duress in the final 20 or 30 minutes of a game, there is a significant difference between throwing in and playing against a defeated Romania team. They did well, but the opposition wasn’t particularly strong.

“I’ll say this: Rassie prefers to select players who are brave and courageous. Without a doubt, both Deon and Marco van Staden are warriors. Outside of the scrummaging and lineout throwing hooking specialties, what you get from Marco and Deon is an excellent return.

If anything happens to Bongi in a game, it is my biggest concern. Ireland is like the final, listen. They are the best in the world, and we are second.

You can practice and throw against Romania as much as you want, but Ireland have a very, very good contesting lineout, so it may be hard if Bongi goes down early and we have a guy playing at hooker who hasn’t played there in four or five years.

Smit, who played hooker for South Africa, said it’s “an incredibly important position”.

“If you think about where Bongi and Malcolm have combined,” he added.

“They’ve had that 30-minute gap to come on and be part of the Bomb Squad.

“That last 30 are difficult because you have to be extremely accurate because pressure is usually present there. The intensity of the game must also be raised.

“Deon Fourie is a man with extensive experience playing hooker. He has good carry. He threw flawlessly [against Romania]. He primarily played hooker with the Stormers, where he excelled at the position.

“His turnovers, in my opinion, will give him an advantage on the bench against the Bomb Squad. Unlike Malcolm, Bongi isn’t as aggressive with the ball as Deon is, but Deon has recently joined the team.


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