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Wallabies under no illusions over 'quality' of Libbok-led Springboks

By AAP
Manie Libbok (Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images)

The Wallabies don’t see a weakness in rookie five-eighth Manie Libbok, who has been named to steer South Africa in their opening Rugby Championship Test in Pretoria.

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With World Cup-winning playmaker Handre Pollard out with a calf injury, Libbok will have his first start in the No.10 jersey when the Springboks face Australia on Saturday (1.05am Sunday AEST) after three Tests off the bench.

Wallabies utility Reece Hodge said the 25-year-old has shown he is up to the Test arena.

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“Manie got a couple of Tests in the Spring tour last year and played really well,” Hodge said from Australia’s training base in Johannesburg.

“He’s a quality player, been playing really well for the Stormers for a number of years now and putting his hand up for selection.

“He hasn’t let the Springboks down when he’s got a chance at Test level.”

South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has sent 14 players to New Zealand to prepare for their July 15 clash with the All Blacks, including Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Faf de Klerk, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe.

Hodge felt the depth of player talent in the Springboks ranks meant they could afford to split the squad and still field a formidable line-up in Pretoria.

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“They have the luxury of four or five or six guys in (each) position … It’s a very high-quality team and it’s going to be a massive Test for us,” he said.

“They’re going to be coming out firing in their first home Test of the year so we don’t really expect too much different there in terms of selection.”

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Known for his massive boot, Hodge is expecting the Test to become a kicking duel and was looking forward to the extra metres that came through playing at altitude.

“It is a big part of the game (on the highveld), the ball travels a bit further,” Hodge said.

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“South Africa have traditionally been a very good kicking side. They put a lot of pressure on teams through contestable kicks.

“We will have to be smart in terms of how we counteract that and put pressure on them through our own kicking game. It will be a massive part of the match.

“It’s certainly exciting for a kicker to get a few extra bonus metres.”

Hodge said Eddie Jones, in his first Test since his return to the Wallabies coaching role, had left no stone unturned.

“One thing that Eddie has brought in is a lot of detail, he is one of the hardest workers I have come across,” Hodge said.

“He is meticulous in his preparation, both in the last two weeks of our camp and in this week leading up to the Test.”

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