Bongi Mbonambi's stock rises higher and higher
When the freakishly impactful Malcolm Marx leaves the field the Springboks’ opponents might be forgiven for thinking they are being exposed to the second coming.
It is then that the Bethlehem-born Bongi Mbonambi is unleashed and his impact is immediately felt.
“When you come on you want to bring a different kind of energy to the team‚” Mbonambi said about the level of industry he brings to proceedings.
Mbonambi seems kinetically charged as forcefully he bounces from one activity to the next.
You can never fault him for effort. His scrummaging is powerful and his feeds at the line-outs have been exemplary.
He is playing mostly in Marx’s shadow but increasingly his performances have served to illuminate the Springboks’ effort in the final quarter.
Marx‚ relatively soon after he made his Test debut‚ had made the position his own but now there isn’t much to chose between him and Mbonambi who has started just six of his 31 Tests.
He has proved a patient and perfect foil to the Lions’ hooker and has considerably closed the gap this season.
“Our scrum just got better and better.
"I must say this guy next to me‚” said Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot while leaning towards Mbonambi‚ “I have a lot of praise for him for his ability as a hooker that puts a lot of pressure into scrummaging.
"I don’t want him to have that tag but when he comes onto the field he starts with such an intensity that ups every (player).
"We are really proud of what Bongi has been doing.
“I was proud about what our pack did on their ball.
"The hookers‚ in particular‚ lead that department. We put them under a lot of pressure on their ball‚” said Proudfoot about the Boks’ effort in their defeat to the All Blacks.
Last week Mbonambi made it onto the field in the 62nd minute but he is set for more game time this week when the Boks take on Namibia at City of Toyota Stadium.
He is likely to pack down against a familiar foe in former Cheetahs captain Torsten van Jaarsveld.
“We played against each other. He had a good career at the Cheetahs. He was a good starting hooker‚” said Mbonambi.
With six days between their match against Namibia and the one against Italy in Shizuoka‚ and only four before they meet Canada in Kobe‚ Bok coach Rassie Erasmus is likely to make sweeping changes to the team.
He wants to avoid fatigue before the business end of the competition but he also knows that the Springboks now have no safety net should they slip up.
With several changes likely to be made for the Namibia game‚ Mbonambi looks set to be in the run-on team.
He may be in a different looking team but the Bok management will be desperate to see similar output.