Night sweats and a gnawing desire for redemption will feed Malcolm Marx’s rage when he tears into the limping All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, writes ZELIM NEL.
Ambushed by Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. South Africa’s first home defeat against Ireland in 2016, and then historic losses in Italy and Wales. A 2017 November tour that kicked off with a record reverse in Dublin.
The Springboks’ success under Rassie Erasmus since 2018 has clouded memories of the horrors experienced during the reign of his predecessors.
That is, Bok supporters’ memories. For the players who were on the field when the green and gold jersey was ignominiously shredded, they are still haunted by the nightmares. And there is arguably no bigger nightmare in Bok history than the dark day South Africa failed to score a single point against the All Blacks, routed 57-0 in Albany.
Under Allister Coetzee, the Boks were more depressing than Sunday radio. The All Blacks turned up the volume.
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In 2016, New Zealand romped to a 57-15 victory at Kings Park – South Africa’s biggest home loss – and they ramped up the humiliation in 2017, blanking the Boks at North Harbour Stadium.
Five years have passed and there’s a very different context to the impending showdown in Nelspruit between these two teams in the Rugby Championship.
Some may say the All Blacks are flying on fumes.
Quite predictably, the three-time world champions have nosedived with Ian Foster at the controls. The warning lights flashed when New Zealand suffered a historic loss against Argentina in 2020, there was the smell of something burning in the cockpit last year following back-to-back tour losses in Dublin and Paris, and then both engines burst into flame in successive home losses against Ireland in July.
The ground is rushing up to meet the All Blacks, and Marx wants to be there to look them in the eye at the moment of impact.
The detonator in South Africa’s infamous Bomb Squad, the hard-charging hooker is set for a promotion to the starting lineup for what will be his 50th Test cap.
Like Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and Siya Kolisi, Marx was in the starting pack for the most emphatic defeat in Bok history. Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane and Pieter-Steph du Toit played off the bench.
All eight of these men are now proud world champions and series victors against the British & Irish Lions, and many of them featured in both of the two-point victories against New Zealand during Rassie’s tenure.
But none of this will have helped with the nightmare of Albany or detract from their hunger for vindication by making the All Blacks feel what it’s like to be disgraced in national colours.
Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea are among those in contention to start for New Zealand this week who also starred in the eight-try demolition of the demoralised Boks in 2017.
Marx remembers. And he wants to make sure the All Blacks never forget.
Source: SA Rugby