Malcolm Marx produced a performance of passion and physicality that served as a shining light in the Boks’ 37-14 win over France, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
For the past couple of seasons, Marx has drawn comparison after comparison to archetypal Bok hardman Bismarck du Plessis. On a beautiful evening in Pretoria on Saturday, Marx emphatically came into his own.
Last year, Marx spent most of the international season watching from the sidelines of the Bok camp as Adriaan Strauss almost exclusively occupied the No 2 jersey, while Bongi Mbonambi provided back-up.
However, Marx’s Super Rugby form for the Lions has been simply too good to ignore in 2017, and in his first Test start, he translated that on to the international stage.
The 22-year-old was at the heart of the Boks’ all-important first-half performance as his abrasive ball-carrying provided much-needed grunt up front, while he popped up with regularity in open play.
Besides Marx providing an assist with a well-timed pass to Jesse Kriel for the opening try, it was also from a beautiful lineout set play that Ross Cronjé was put away to effectively score the match-winner midway through the second half.
Speaking of the lineouts, Marx’s throwing at this set piece certainly appears to be much improved, but it does remain the one work-in-progress. Yet it’s an area of his game that he has plenty of time to hone in what seems certain to be a lengthy Test career.
While Marx should receive plenty of plaudits after this performance, leading the way in terms of vindicating the selection of in-form Lions players, teammate Elton Jantjies was just as impressive at flyhalf.
After a 2016 season in which Jantjies produced a sequence of inconsistent performances in Bok colours, this time out he looked calm and composed, with most of his decision-making proving to be spot on.
Perhaps more than anything, though, it was his dead-eye goal-kicking that served as an apt illustration of just how he has taken the lessons of last year on board, to ultimately become a better all-round player.
Make no mistake, this was far from a perfect performance from the Boks, but after last year’s horror season, it’s a result and all-round effort that they will take and run. First and foremost, though, Marx can take a bow after being deservedly named Man of the Match.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images