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Springboks name 'the thing I would like to see' from rookie Libbok

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Saturday night in Marseille is set to be the biggest rugby experience so far in the career of Manie Libbok, the uncapped fly-half named on the Springboks bench for their Autumn Nations Series game versus France. Whereas South Africa elected to go with a six/two forwards/backs split on their bench in Ireland last Saturday, head coach Jacques Niebaner has now recalibrated that divide for next weekend.

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Deciding it would be best for the second game of the tour to go with one forward less in reserve, the Springboks have chosen to omit loose forward Deon Fourie and instead have Libbok named as a third backs replacement on this occasion.

It’s been a rapid elevation for the 25-year-old who spent his early franchise years at the Bulls and Sharks before coming of age last season when starting 20 matches as the Stormers blazed their way to the URC title. It was just last month when he was included for the first time by the Springboks, attending a 26-player gathering in Stellenbosch.

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That three-day camp left SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus commenting: “It was also valuable in the sense that it exposed new players such as Manie (Libbok) and Sacha (Mngomezulu) to our structures and to see them in action as we finalise the selections for the Springbok and SA A teams. It was pleasing to see their and the rest of the training squad’s enthusiasm.”

A couple of days later and Libbok was named in the Springboks tour squad for their four-game European adventure and he has now made it into their matchday selection at the second attempt, Nienaber naming the fly-half on the bench following the three-point loss in Ireland that sparked much debate about the current reliability of the team’s goalkicking.

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What does the Springboks head coach want to see from the Libbok, the Test level newcomer, if he does get some time in action against the French? “The majority of the fly-halves we have currently playing in South Africa, they are all pretty experienced at URC level but they don’t have a lot of international experience so that is where we are…

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“The nice thing about Manie is this is his third week with us now and from my perspective looking at him running in the training sessions, he is a lot more comfortable in terms of running the show and getting used to the language, what we call a skip pass, what we do in certain areas of the field.

“So I think he is getting nice and comfortable seeing that it is his third week and we are confident that if he does get an opportunity that he won’t have to think about what is happening and he can just play his natural game.

“The thing I would like to see from him – and what the team needs from him and the other coaches need from him – is to do what Manie does best, to play with his specific skill set that he has available to him. So yeah, we are quite looking forward and hope that things pan out the way that we can actually give him some time on the field.”

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