Rassie Backs Misfiring Bongi


Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus denied hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi was replaced in the first half because of his misfiring line-outs.

Mbonambi, 27, started in South Africa’s shocking 18-23 loss to Australia in a Rugby Championship in Brisbane at the weekend – only his fourth start in 19 Tests.

Despite showing decent form in his two starts in the two-one series win over England in June, the Stormers No.2 looked out of sorts in the set pieces.

Mbonambi was replaced by regular starter Malcolm Marx soon after he overthrew a line-out, metres from his own line that gifted Matt Toomua a try in the 32nd minute – allowing the Wallabies to claw their way back into the game from being 7-15 down.

Pundits suggested that his earlier line-out jitters and the overthrow horror were the reasons for his early replacement in a game in which the Springboks made a litany of errors.

However, Erasmus defended the hooker and suggested that ‘fatigue’, rather than poor form, was the reason for extracting him from the game.

“Bongi hasn’t played a lot,” Erasmus said of the hooker’s lack of game time since the end of Super Rugby – where he played just eight minutes in the 19-32 loss to Argentina in Mendoza and 15 minutes in the 34-21 win over Los Pumas in Durban.

“You could see he was struggling,” the Bok coach said, adding: “Everybody plays as long as he can and if he is struggling, you put the sub on.

“Bongi was one of those things.

“We tell you [the players], empty the tank, see how far you go and we put the guy on the bench on.

“It was definitely not for the overthrow.

“That [the line-out overthrow] was more a combination between Siya and the guys – definitely not just Bongi’s fault there.”

Erasmus also again defended flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who was hot and cold – with some good and a lot of bad in the mix.

“I thought Elton did brilliant things at times,” Erasmus said, adding: “He kicked really well at poles.

“[The mistakes were] small things, like that little grubber into the in-goal area, [which] could have been a try if it was a little bit shorter.

“When it isn’t, it is a terrible mistake.

“We have to find the right combinations and the challenge for us [as coaching staff] is find it quick enough or get fired.

“One of those two. If you don’t find it quick enough, you are out of here. If we find it and we start winning, great for the nation. If we don’t, we know what the consequences will be.”

Erasmus suggested a lot of guys are getting “experience” in the Rugby Championship, but are sometimes “struggling with the big match situation”.

“That was the team we selected as the Springbok team today [for Saturday].

“Whether it was raining or dry, we should have played the game better than we did today.”