World Rugby Top 5 Players Series: Hookers - Page 2 of 3 - Ruck

World Rugby Top 5 Players Series: Hookers

3. Bongi Mbonambi – South Africa and Sharks

Back to the Springboks now, with the man that is frequently interchanged for the aforementioned Malcolm Marx. South Africa are blessed to have two of the world’s top five hookers at their disposal, with Sharks man Bongi Mbonambi a more than capable replacement for Marx, once the Kubota Spears man begins to fatigue. Mbonambi has made 70 test match caps for his country, in an impressive tenure that stretches back to Ireland’s 2015 Summer Tour of South Africa.

Mbonambi’s longevity speaks volumes of his consistency for the Springboks, as along with Marx, he offered an essential hooker option throughout South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph. Mbonambi was credited with South Africa’s early scrum dominance throughout the competition in Japan, before he would be replaced by Marx to close out the contest. The 32-year-old scored a total of eight tries for club and country, throughout the 2022/23 season, with his starring Sharks performance being a brace against eventual URC Champions Munster, to lead the Durban side through to the Champions Cup quarter-final.

A stalwart of the South African domestic clubs, Mbonambi made his breakthrough as apart of the Stormers during the Cape Town side’s Super Rugby days. Following the expansion of the Pro14 into the United Rugby Championship back in 2021, Mbonambi jumped ship to the Sharks, and has since led his side to the final eight of the URC and Champions Cup competitions. A hooker who will in no doubt want nothing more than to win back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles, Mbonambi is a revered opponent who will look to leave his mark on the competition in France.

4. Dan Sheehan – Ireland and Leinster

At just 24-years-old, Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan is well on his way to becoming the best in the world for his position. As he enters his prime, Sheehan is going to be an unstoppable force in the front row, with his dynamic pace around the pitch akin to a younger Dane Coles. A definitive prototype for the ‘modern day hooker’, Sheehan is a try-scoring machine in the URC, with a record better than most backs in the competition.

Sheehan crossed over for 14 tries in all competitions last season, which included four in one match against Benetton. Sheehan scored two early tries for Leinster, in the 2023 Champions Cup Final and established a healthy (but eventually thrown) lead over La Rochelle. The hooker has also proven his try scoring prowess on the international stage, with a brace against England in the 2023 Six Nations, as Ireland secured their first Grand Slam since 2018. Sheehan is Andy Farrell’s worst kept secret, with Pool B opponents South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania drawing up the game plans to stop the formidable front rower.

The Champions Cup Final defeat to La Rochelle, was the first and only match that Sheehan lost throughout the entire 2022/23 season. Sheehan did not play in the URC semi-final defeat to Munster, yet did star in every match for Ireland, in their unstoppable season throughout the 2023 Six Nations and the previous 2022 Autumn Nations Series. With Ireland pursuing their first ever Rugby World Cup, Sheehan is a pivotal player in Andy Farrell’s pack, that will have to be performing at his very best to bring the Web Ellis trophy to the Emerald Isle for the first time.