Malcolm Marx’s injury is a massive blow for the Springboks, as he has arguably been the most influential rugby player in South Africa over the last two years.

But should we really be surprised that the hooker has broken down less than a month before the one-off Test against Wales in Washington, DC and the highly anticipated June Test series against Eddie Jones’ England?

Marx played a lot of rugby in 2016 and 2017, and had already racked up 711 Super Rugby minutes before he came off with a groin injury in the first half against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Marx is extremely important to the Lions and the Springboks’ cause. As a ball-carrying hooker he has no peer in international rugby, while his work at the defensive breakdown is simply spectacular for a No 2 — Marx has made more turnovers than any other player in Super Rugby this year.

He tends to play a lot more minutes than your average hooker because of his valuable contributions on the rugby field for both franchise and country. In the 2016 Rugby Championship he clocked up 447 minutes out of a possible 480, averaging just over 75 minutes a Test match.

Argentina captain Augustine Crévy played a total of 374 minutes during the same time, while Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau tallied 335 minutes.

Lock Eben Etzebeth, who captained the Boks in the Rugby Championship last year missed only four minutes of rugby in that competition, but he hasn’t picked up a ball for the Stormers this season because of a shoulder injury.

Star Boks flank Siya Kolisi played 455 minutes in the 2017 Rugby Championship, the second most for a loose forward during the competition. He started this year with an injury, and hasn’t been able to play his best rugby because he hasn’t seem to have had sufficient rest after a stellar campaign last season.

Over the past two years former coach Allister Coetzee’s focus was to build capacity in many positions, but that hardly happened, and that’s why top players such has Marx, Etzebeth and Kolisi are breaking down.

The same thing is happening with front-row forwards in various other Super Rugby teams as well, with Stormers props Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff two of the players who regularly go over the 70-minute mark, while hooker Ramone Samuels has already reached 746 minutes of game time so far this year.

Many people blame the conditioning of key South African players for their fitness and the rate at which they suffer injuries. But surely in this small world we live in, the training methods of teams can’t be too dissimilar?

South Africa’s key rugby players are simply playing too much rugby, because winning seems to outweigh the best interests of the players or building for the future.

Because of this, fringe players also don’t get enough time on the field at Super Rugby and international level.

New Zealand rugby, on the other hand, has mastered the art of exposing youngsters to top-flight rugby and giving their stalwarts a rest. They now have a broad base of players to pick from, and will be able to manage their players properly ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

It’s New Zealand teams who also seem to up the pace in the final 20 minutes of any match, because their bench makes an impact against tired players who are expected to play 80 minutes week in and week out.

Marx’s injury shouldn’t come as a shock. He has been played into the ground by the Lions and the Boks, and now he is set to miss an important series against England.

The injury must now be viewed as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for Bok coach Rassie Erasmus to look at his other hooker options for the June Tests. It seems like Bulls veteran Adriaan Strauss will be back in the green and gold next month, but who will also be in the mix?

Bismarck du Plessis will be in action for Montpellier on 2 June, the day of the Wales Test in the United States, and will probably not be considered for the first Test against England a week later. This leaves Samuels and Sharks hookers Chilliboy Ralapele and Akker van der Merwe as local options.

For now, though, Marx should go recover in the bush somewhere and must be better managed when he gets back. He needs to be in tip-top shape for the World Cup in 2019.

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