Malcolm Marx doubled up in more ways than one in the Springboks’ vital 36-20 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The world champions overcame off-field controversies and a Pumas fightback to claim a full house of log points and keep their Rugby Championship title hopes alive.
Our top three Springbok standouts were:
Marx has been in a statement-making mood this season. He’s proven that he’s the best hooker in the world and that, after being content with bringing the heat off the bench for the previous two seasons, he still has more to give and has shown why he should start in the green and gold No 2 jersey.
He upped the ante even further against Argentina. He was a tireless tour de force and the brace he scored was crucial in the context of the championship race. It also encapsulated what a complete colossus he is. His first try was a product of his accuracy, his clinical lineout throwing and maul management seeing him crash over.
The second was special, a testament to his extraordinary gas tank and underrated ball skills as he scurried and held onto an outstanding one-handed take of Makazole Mapimpi’s pass to score the all-important bonus point try in the final play of the game.
This, though, wasn’t his most impressive double strike on the day.
No, that was outshining Pumas captain Julian Montoya in a lopsided battle of the two form hookers in world rugby AND Agustin Creevy, an Argentinian great, in a freakish 82-minute performance. Now that’s special.
A second-phase sledgehammer on attack, he smashed over the gain line time and time again, one such surge setting the table for Jaden Hendrikse’s try.
Earlier, he showed he has brains to match his brawn when he peeled off a driving maul and threw a skip pass to Canan Moodie that led to a penalty try. Unsurprisingly, he made a pack-high 45 metres from 10 carries.
Just as mighty on the other side of the ball, Marx did great work at the breakdown – highlighted by a 29th-minute jackal – and made 14 tackles, the second-most of the afternoon.
Anyone familiar with the Glenwood prodigy would’ve known he was destined for big things but his progression this season has exceeded expectations.
The 22-year-old looked like a Test veteran, driving the Springboks clinically and confidently. His box kicks were spot on, particularly down the right flank for Moodie, and his exit kicks sailed out over the halfway line.
He caught the Pumas out a couple of times with his sharpness on attack, drawing Santiago Carreras into conceding a penalty try and a yellow card for tackling him from an offside position and selling a dummy to dart in under the posts.
He also made an important spot tackle on Juan Martin Gonzalez. It’s understandable why he was subbed in the 59th minute – to give Faf de Klerk an opportunity to find form, but it disrupted the visitors’ flow and nearly cost them.
Damian de Allende had one of his stronger showings this season, pun intended. He ran hard and straight, setting targets, creating the first try-scoring opportunity, beating four defenders and making an unrivalled 64 metres from 10 carries.
He also showed his power and determination to score the match-sealing try, however, he blew another by failing to link up with Mapimpi while he and the struggling Jesse Kriel just aren’t gelling.
Pipping him is the hard-working, ever-present Mostert, whose exceptional motor saw him make a match-high 16 tackles. The utility forward was the main man in the lineout as well, with the Springboks mixing up their attacks from the back.
As Victor Matfield mentioned in the SuperSport studio afterwards, it’s questionable if the one throw he dropped was in fact a knock-on and warranted Lood de Jager’s try being disallowed.