Malcolm in the middle

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The powerfully-built hooker has made the Lions No 2 jersey his own this season, producing impressive performances week after week.

If he didn’t look like it a year ago, now he does look like a young Bismarck du Plessis, the player his coach Johan Ackermann said Marx could become.

“In my view he can be the next Bismarck,” said Ackermann of Marx at the start of last year’s Super Rugby competition. The hooker had just come off an impressive 2014 season in the junior ranks, culminating in him being the SA U20 first choice hooker.

“I was excited about Malcolm last year already (2014), but he needed to work on his mobility a bit and that’s something he’s done,” Ackermann added.

“He’s got all the physical attributes you want in a hooker. He’s got a real presence at ruck time, and in defence, and plays like another loose forward.

”They were big words by Ackermann, but they were meant to encourage his rookie No 2. Unfortunately, Marx didn’t quite live up to the hype in Super Rugby last year, but this season, the 21-year-old has been everything Ackermann said he’d be – and more.

Yes, Du Plessis is still in the national frame even though he’s playing in France, but among the local hookers few have been as consistent and as powerful as Marx has been for the Lions.

He admits he’s performing at a level he expects of himself now, unlike last year. “I probably didn’t back myself like I should have. I’d look at the senior players and think they didn’t rate me,” he said on.

“Yes, there were big things expected of me last year, but that’s no excuse for not performing at the required standard. I think I was too hard on myself, I forced things and put too much pressure on myself… and it didn’t work out.

“I learned a lot last year and now, this year, I’m doing things far more naturally, by taking it one step and one day at a time. Where I was forcing the issue last year, I’m now just playing.”

Marx has been one of a number of stand-out players in the Lions team, who face the Jaguares in a round 12 match at Ellis Park on Saturday. The Lions lead the South African Conference and are on target to play in the quarter-finals later this year, while Marx is also in contention to be part of the Springbok set-up next month.

“It’s been a big dream of mine since Grade 6 or 7,” he says. “But there’s a lot of competition at hooker and to be honest I’m not even thinking about the possibility. My focus is only on the Lions and if the Boks come my way, then I’d be very grateful.”

One area of Marx’s game that’s improved drastically since last year is his throwing in the line-outs. “I’ve worked hard on that aspect of my game for two years now and it’s paying off, but it’s not something that’s ever finished… it’s constant work and I’m going to have to keep at it.

Getting the right feeling is key and, of course, ensuring you have a consistent throwing action in your arm.”l Meanwhile, it was announced by the Lions on Wednesday that star wing Ruan Combrinck has committed to the union for another two years, meaning he will wear the red and white until the end of 2018.

The 26-year-old has played every minute of the 11 games the Lions have played this year, scoring four tries.

The Star

Original source: Malcolm in the middle

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