Marx is quick enough, he’s big enough and he plays towards the ball in an era of rugby where so much revolves around the breakdown.
The Springboks are, and always have been, spoilt for choice when it comes to their pack. This year is no different, and a positional shift for South African rugby’s 2017 Player of the Year, may be the best way the Boks can utilise their wealth of heavies.
Marx has been criticised before for his lineout ability, and is part of a Lions front row that doesn’t evidently dominate scrums. So why endure the negative aspects to his game, when we can make way for an environment where only his positive ones are displayed?
We have quality depth at hooker in Schalk Brits and Bongi Mbonambi, and a positional vacancy at openside, whereby the No 6s of the last few years have found their roles undefined. Marx could fill the Sam Cane-like role that South Africa has been lacking – the specialist opensider who allows for disruption at rucktime, which is the area of the game where most plays evolve from.
With Marx specialising as an opensider also allows for further positional malleability within the starting pack and on the bench. Let’s work from a starting loose trio of Duane Vermuelen at No 8, Marx at 6 and Siya Kolisi at 7, with the latter’s style of play lending himself to the blindside as he is a strong ball-carrier and a skilled link between the backs and forwards.
Brits and Mbonambi can now become interchangeable at hooker, leaving the Boks bolstered with specialised skill at No 2 and with the option to shift Marx back to hooker towards the end of games and open up space on the pitch for an extra loose forward.
A dynamic loosie like Kwagga Smith, whose form this season cannot be ignored, can now be optioned on the bench, but not necessarily at the expense of a physical bench presence like Jean-Luc Du Preez. What you’re doing is creating a bigger pool of talent within your pack of eight.
Rugby starts and ends at the breakdown, and Marx will have the ability at flank, without the responsibility at hooker, to upset the ruck and therein disrupt opposition momentum. His presence in the open would complete a powerful loose trio that at times last year looked to lack cohesion, probably due to non-specificity in their roles at 6, 7 and 8.
Marx already plays the game of a flank, but wearing the No 2 jersey. His only adjustment in shaking the No 2 from his back would have to be the running lines on attack and defence, which I imagine would be a fast adaption.
In a World Cup year, the Springboks need as many of their best players on the field at once, and most importantly their strongest pack. This positional shake-up would offer a new way to utilise these players’ talents within the numerical restriction of selection.
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