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Glasgow explain plan to target Stormers' 'magician' Manie Libbok

By Bryn Palmer
Stormers' Manie Libbok (Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Glasgow will target Springboks fly-half Manie Libbok as they seek to shackle the Stormers when the United Rugby Championship’s knockout stages begin this weekend. The Cape Town outfit won the inaugural URC title two years ago after the introduction of the four strongest South African sides, with Libbok landing a clinching drop-goal in their final win over the Bulls.

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The 26-year-old was also instrumental in Stormers reaching a second straight final 12 months ago, only for Munster to pull off a remarkable heist at their Cape Town fortress. Next Saturday’s quarter-final at Scotstoun will be the first time John Dobson’s side, who finished fifth in the regular season, have faced a play-off tie away from their DHL Stadium home.

Warriors intend to make life particularly uncomfortable for the visitors’ playmaker-in-chief. “Stormers are an extremely physical team but they have also got massive X-factor and one of the best 10s in the business in Manie Libbok,” said Glasgow assistant coach Nigel Carolan.

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Evan Roos on his role within the Stormers squad

Stormers star Evan Roos said he has broadened his knowledge of the game by playing in different positions in the back row for the Stormers this season.

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Evan Roos on his role within the Stormers squad

Stormers star Evan Roos said he has broadened his knowledge of the game by playing in different positions in the back row for the Stormers this season.

“If you can quieten him and get him off his game, they don’t function as well. It’s going to be important we make our presence felt and make sure there’s plenty of heat on him, on both sides of the ball.

“He’s a magician and if you can take away some of that flair and magic, you can make them ordinary enough. We’ve got to match their physicality. They have some wonderful X-factor players and that’s what makes them so good.”

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United Rugby Championship
Glasgow
27 - 10
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Ten of Glasgow’s likely match day 23 had cause to lament Libbok’s talent in Scotland’s Rugby World Cup pool defeat by South Africa last autumn when the No10’s stunning no-look cross-field kick put Kurt-Lee Arendse over for the Boks’ second try in the decisive play of their Marseille encounter.

Libbok was replaced by the more experienced Handre Pollard for the latter stages of South Africa’s RWC triumph, partly down to his inconsistent goalkicking, while defensively Warriors feel there may be a chink in the fly-half’s armour they can exploit by adapting their usual attacking patterns.

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“We have got a few guys here who were talking about it this morning and how they can make his life a little bit more uncomfortable,” Carolan continued. “Not all our plays need to go out the back, some of them can target his channel as well. Even if he moves – sometimes you can hide players like that – we can seek him out.

“It’s not all about him though. We are trying to focus on the things that work well for us and not necessarily just going after one guy. You can lose your focus if you focus too much on the opposition and less on what you do, so we have got to focus on bringing an excellent version of the things that have got us to the knockout stage.”

Glasgow’s chances of improving on last year’s quarter-final misfire against Munster have been boosted by the return to training this week of Scotland duo Kyle Steyn and George Turner.

Hooker Turner, who will leave Warriors this summer for a mooted move to Japan, could play his first game since breaking a bone in his foot during the Guinness Six Nations, while captain Steyn was forced to miss last week’s 38-26 win over Zebre with a knee infection.

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But they are set to be without the ultra-consistent Stafford McDowall, who remains sidelined with an infected hand caused by falling on a rogue object on the field during Glasgow’s defeat by the Lions in Johannesburg on 18 May.

“Stafford hasn’t reintegrated into training yet,” Carolan explained. “The recovery from that infection has been slower than we first anticipated. He has got all the heavy bandaging off it now but this weekend could be a little bit tight for him. It is a horrible injury. The photos of it made my stomach turn.”

McDowall has started 20 of the Warriors’ 23 matches this season and was voted player of the season by his fellow players, as well as winning a leadership gong at the club’s annual awards last weekend. The centre’s absence has been offset though by the timely return of Huw Jones, who started his first game since the Six Nations against Zebre, sparing Glasgow’s coaching staff a thorny midfield selection dilemma.

“Stafford has been one of our most consistent performers on the field and off it,” Carolan added. “He has been superb, and we needed that as well with Huw not being available these last couple of months.

“It would create a real headache if it was between Sione Tuipulotu and Huw. How do you accommodate two out of that three, because they have all been superb? Huw coming back is perfect timing for the team.

“They say that when you get to knock-out rugby it takes two things to progress – momentum and a full deck. We’re not far off having a full deck again now we have guys like Richie Gray, George Turner and Huw Jones back with us. It just adds to the competition we have in the squad and the challenge is to build them back into the team without losing cohesion.”

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