Rugby
Martyn Thomas, Rugby Editor 14d

Adriaan Strauss says work ethic can make Malcolm Marx 'world-class'

Rugby

Adriaan Strauss knows what it takes to become a top-class international No. 2. He finished his eight-year Springbok career as captain and with 66 caps to his name, so when he predicts Malcolm Marx will become one of the world's best hookers people should probably listen.

Marx came on as a replacement for Strauss when the curtain came down on the latter's international career with a drab defeat in Cardiff almost 12 months ago. It was the end, too, of an arduous year in which South Africa won just four of their 12 matches and lost all three of their November Tests, including a first ever reverse against Italy.

Despite bowing out on such a low note, Strauss insists he has no regrets about how his time in the famous green jersey ended. "I had almost 70 Tests to give it my all," he told ESPN. "I did in each and every minute of each and every Test."

In his absence, Marx has been an ever-present in the No. 2 shirt and impressed as the Springboks came within minutes of beating the All Blacks last month. Strauss has watched on, unsurprised.

"Malcolm had a very good game [against New Zealand]," Strauss said. "But to be honest with you, I think he's had a good couple of seasons. I think he's an exceptional player, he's very well built, he's an intimidating player because of his size but he's a hard worker as well. That's what's going to really set him apart.

"He's not going to be a one-hit wonder I believe. He's got all the ingredients of an excellent rugby player -- of a world, world, world class rugby player -- and he's a hard worker and I think that will really set him apart."

And it isn't only Marx from the current Springbok squad who has impressed Strauss. The Bulls hooker was buoyed by the resolve that Allister Coetzee's side showed to run the world champions so close in Cape Town just three weeks after they had been beaten 57-0 by the same team.

"The boys are really fighting back," he said. "It's going to take a special team with a lot of character to really dig deep and fight back. They did exactly that, losing 57-0 against the All Blacks and then three weeks later bouncing back and putting up a hell of a fight and really almost winning that game.

"That shows character and that's why I'm very positive about South African rugby. There's amazing talent there, the guys that are there want to be there and are playing with a lot of heart."

Those are characteristics that Strauss has displayed throughout his career, and while he may not feel like there is any unfinished business with the Springboks, captaining them on a losing tour certainly took its toll.

"There's always pressure on any player in any team, and especially the captain," he said. "Especially in the challenging year that we had. But I embraced that and really did the best that I could.

"It's about respect, and the people I worked with we've still got good communication going and I think we'll always have that respect for one another. Unfortunately, some of the results could have been better but that's the game and you learn from that."

Strauss will be on the bench at Munster's Thomond Park Friday night as the Barbarians take on Tonga following their entertaining defeat to New Zealand at Twickenham last weekend.

His involvement with the invitational side has helped him rediscover his childhood zest for rugby. "I started playing the game as a little boy, I've always been passionate about the game. I've always loved the game," he said.

"But a week like this where you really go back to your roots and realise it's all about the ball, the mates next to you, the respect they have for you during a game, the respect you have for them. You look each other in the eye after the game, and you can actually face each other and you know you've left it all out there -- that's the stuff that really matters for me.

"A week like this gives you the opportunity to do that and really find your roots again, and I love it. I enjoy it so much."

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