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Manie Libbok reflects on relationship with Handré Pollard throughout RWC

By Ned Lester
Manie Libbok is replaced by Handre Pollard for the Springboks. Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The flyhalf battle for the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup was tense, with two world-class talents jostling for one of the most coveted jerseys in modern rugby.

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Manie Libbok was the incumbent heading into the tournament as Handré Pollard nursed a calf injury that saw him omitted from the initial World Cup sqaud.

When injury befell Malcolm Marx, the Springboks coaches took the opportunity to take a risk and back their limited hooker cover in order to bring in their experienced playmaker.

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What followed was a conundrum for many fans, given the exciting form of Libbok but the World Cup-winning pedigree of Pollard.

Throughout the selection debate, Libbok says the respect between the two players never wavered.

“We had a good relationship, Handré’s an awesome guy,” Libbok told the Behind the Ruck Podcast.

“And, it was nice to have him back in the group as well. Especially for that last stretch with the knockout games.

“I’m just stoked for how he came in, and how he supported me. Obviously, he helped the team, he helped me, to prepare to the best of our ability, to win the World Cup.

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“Later on, obviously in the final, he got his opportunity to start, which he deserved. I’m just happy, I was stoked to have him back in the group. Obviously, he’s a world-class flyhalf and he has done it before, so there’s no one else you want to learn off.

“To have a guy like him in your corner, to guide you through things, he’s the best. It was awesome to have him there. I’ve learnt a lot from him in my time with the Bulls and obviously now with my time at the Boks as well.”

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Learnings are a huge focus for the 26-year-old, who, along with fellow Springbok playmaker Damian Willemse, recently rejoined Stormers after some time away relaxing post-World Cup.

Libbok will bring valuable experience back to club land, and when asked exactly what his biggest learning from the World Cup was, his response reflected the biggest challenge of rugby’s biggest stage.

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“I would say, mentally, how to mentally handle the pressure. Obviously, the amount that I was under, the immense pressure that I was under, I knew the pressure was there, I kind of saw an opportunity in the pressure as well, because it can go both ways. It can go well, defending the World Cup, helping the team to defend the World Cup and win it again, but my thinking, my learning was always just the mental side of things.

“How to handle intensity mentally, or operate to play at this level. I think I learned a lot through that, through the World Cup.

“I just think I will be better off after the World Cup, going into the Stormers in the URC and if I do work hard enough,  and get the opportunity to play for the Boks once again.”

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