Malcolm Marx is a gifted player, perhaps even the most gifted of this latest generation of Springbok players.
Former Lions coach Johan Ackermann was correct when he boldly told the rugby fraternity at the start of 2015 that the then 20-year-old was going to become the next Bismarck du Plessis.
Last year, Marx established himself as arguably the foremost hooker in world rugby, especially after a great performance against the All Blacks at Newlands.
So, it was with some surprise that national coach Rassie Erasmus picked him as a replacement for today’s Rugby Championship meeting with the Wallabies in Brisbane. Why on earth would one of the best players in the world be benched for a must-win fixture such as this one?
There might be an answer. In the rich, fictional world of George Lucas’ legendary Star Wars franchise, Jedi Knights are the protectors of the galaxy, revered heroes. But to become one, a person has to be born with “The Force”, which can be harnessed and trained to spectacular effect.
However, it can be argued that sometimes a Jedi is defined too much by his or her force powers and lightsaber. Take it away and very few will probably have the skills to cope with combat. In fact, it’s possible a normal soldier is, at heart, more capable than a Jedi.
Marx is a Jedi. He has the “force” in him. He’s built for a modern player, blessed with height, strength and attacking prowess.
The Bok hooker is devastating when he wields his “lightsaber”, dominating collisions and poaching balls at the breakdown at will.
But then Mendoza happened. Marx was, frankly, anonymous against the Pumas.
Marx was on a battlefield where he didn’t have his “lightsaber” and “The Force” left him.
In rugby terms, he needed to revert back to the basics – to be watertight on defence, to scrum decently and, most importantly, throw accurately into the lineouts. Marx did none of that convincingly. And that is why he’s a replacement this week.
In Test rugby, Jedis rely too much on their superpowers … and need to learn that to be a capable soldier is a better bet at this level.