EXCLUSIVE: Manie changing Bok game outweighed missed kicks

rugby10 April 2024 10:30| © SuperSport
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Manie Libbok © Gallo Images


Rassie Erasmus always spoke about a World Cup winning flyhalf needing to have played many international games so you wouldn’t have expected Manie Libbok to feature in the Springbok squad in France in 2023, but he did and he was instrumental in changing their game.

There are many who rather blindly follow the popular line and misconceptions and don’t realise that a player who may miss the odd kick actually makes up for it with the impact he has on a team’s general all round game. Libbok is one of those flyhalves, and there are many South Africans who unfortunately suffer from that misconception.

Speak to the people on the inside, however, and it is a very different story - Libbok is highly valued for the influence he has had on turning the Boks into a far greater attacking force since he made his debut towards the end of 2022.

The third episode of Chasing the Sun 2 ended early in the second half of the quarterfinal against France in Paris, probably at just precisely the point that the experience and steady kicking ability of Handre Pollard was introduced. Pollard won the game from there with a clutch kick, as he was again to do the following week in the semifinal against England where the conditions just weren’t the conditions for Libbok’s game.

But the replay of the first half of that quarterfinal was a reminder of how the Boks probably wouldn’t have been still in the game at halftime against a host nation that started the game in such rampant fashion had it not been for Libbok’s special attacking skill and ability to read the play.

France scored three tries in that first half, which is a lot. The Boks eventually won the game because in that 40 minutes they were able to respond with three tries of their own, with much of the Bok attacking play having Libbok’s stamp on it.

“Manie is just special, Manie understands the game,” said wing Kurt-Lee Arendse. “Sometimes when you (the team) have the ball you just know that with him there it is going to happen.”

Assistant coach Felix Jones, the Irishman now working with England, summed up Libbok’s influence on the Bok game in the year of his involvement best.

“Over the last 12 months he changed the way the Springboks are playing, and his ability to move the ball, his hand speed, his identification of space, and how he brings the other players into the game, far outweighs the odd missed kick here and there,” said Jones.

Pollard himself was full of praise for Libbok, praising him for the way his game has grown in his time with the Boks and how he has developed his game management skills, and says that there is far more to his fellow flyhalf than the cross kicks and the fancy stuff that people recognise as his signature.

Watch what is said about Libbok by teammates and coaches on the Supersport Youtube channel.