Chasing the Sun 2: Has Rassie Erasmus given us a hint who will be the next Springbok captain?

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi celebrates following their Rugby World Cup semi-final victory against England. Picture: Thomas Samson / AFP

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi celebrates following their Rugby World Cup semi-final victory against England. Picture: Thomas Samson / AFP

Published Apr 15, 2024


The fourth episode of the Chasing the Sun 2 series ended on the most emotional of notes with Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi crying in the locker room and getting a big hug from Rassie Erasmus after their thrilling Rugby World Cup semi-final win over England.

Mbonambi, who in the previous Chasing the Sun series was described as the ‘top dog’ and one of the team’s physical enforcers, broke down in the changing room following the titanic battle against the English.

Mbonambi had to do the unthinkable and go the full 80 minutes of that match, a fete which is unheard of for a hooker in the modern game.

In the previous high-octane quarter-final against France he also played for 75 minutes.

— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) April 14, 2024

With replacement hooker Deon Fourie coming on at flank for captain Siya Kolisi, Mbonambi had to stay on the field against England, while also taking over the captaincy.

The Springboks’ hooker was involved in three key moments in the last quarter of the match, which turned the momentum of the match in South Africa’s favour

The first one was a scrum in the Springboks’ 22 when he, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch and the rest of the forwards won a crucial penalty when the match and the World Cup looked like it was slipping from their grasp.

With just over 10 minutes to go, the Springboks got another scrum penalty, after which Mbonambi gave Handre Pollard the ball to kick to touch. The hooker then coolly found his jumper, but instead of mauling the Boks ran a different play which resulted in RG Snyman barging over the line and Pollard converting.

From there, with Mbonambi leading from the front, the Springboks felt they could actually win.

Mbonambi, probably running on fumes and emotion, then had to pack down yet again for what would be the match-winning scrum. And the Bok pack, with Nche and an injured Koch on either side of the captain, putting enough pressure on to give Pollard the chance to win the match.

At the final whistle, after another one-point win, the cameras show Mbonambi dropping to his knees at the final whistle, his hands aloft in triumph.

But, as the stadium and South Africa as a whole went berserk, Mbonambi retreated into the quiet bowls of the Stade de France where he was greeted by Erasmus’ words:

“Well done man! You turned the whole game. This is what a captain does. You don’t give up! you deserve respect!”

Just before the end of the episode, Erasmus gives us some insight into Mbonambi the man, the leader, and how much the Springbok jersey means to him.

“I haven’t seen him like that, that emotional. It’s the pressure. If you haven’t been Springbok captain, and now your doing it on the World Cup stage,” Erasmus said.

“I just think that is how much he took it upon himself to really try and help us. To prove to us that he can do it and that we made the right choice. ‘Thank you for backing me like this’.

With France-based Kolisi’s captaincy of the Springboks in the spotlight - Erasmus prefers his captain to play his rugby in South Africa - could Mbonambi take over the reigns on permanent basis?

However, age is not on the side of the 33-year-old Sharks hooker, who will be 36 once the next Rugby World Cup in Australia comes along.

However, Mbonambi clearly has Erasmus and team’s respect and showed that he has the character to take the Springboks’ captaincy on a permanent basis.

“To prove to us that we made the right choice.”

It seems like Rassie Erasmus is already preparing us for this eventuality.