- Springbok manager Jacques Nienaber thought of giving Manie Libbok a starting run at 10 for Saturday’s test against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
- Libbok has impressed in both of his substitute appearances for the Boks, most notably in the game in Italy, where he pulled the strings well in the 10th in the second half.
- Nienaber has been very happy with what Libbok and Damian Willemse have offered on the flyhalf channel.
Springbok manager Jacques Nienaber may have been tempted to give fly half Manie Libbok a start in the highly pressured atmosphere of an England Test at Twickenham on Saturday, but Damian Willemse’s form ultimately made the decision for him. .
The Boks will take on the Roses for the 45th time on Saturday and with Libbok coming off very well in his first two tests coming off the bench, the temptation was there to give him a run despite the tough nature of the opposition.
However, the reversion to Willemse was expected, especially as Willemse was solid in 10 in all three tests in the position on tour.
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Nienaber’s vote of confidence in Willemse was overwhelming, but with Libbok also fitting the Bok system like a glove, the manager suddenly had plenty of options in what was a problematic position at the start of the tour.
“Were we tempted? I think Damian has been doing well at 10 and is driving the team forward,” Nienaber said. “He is also getting a good experience at 10.
“We know he can do it for us at 10 and 15, so it’s nice to have him and Manie.”
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Canan Moodie
Nienaber went from being cautious about Libbok’s ability ahead of his French debut to being enthusiastic about what the 25-year-old from Humansdorp has to offer from a game perspective.
Libbok had a brief, but very intense, rugby test against France in Marseille on November 12, but relaxed and flourished the following week in the big 63-21 win against Italy in Genoa.
Nienaber hopes that Libbok, whose star grew exponentially for the Stormers during the United Rugby Championship, will adapt to Twickenham’s hostility in the same way he dealt with Marseille’s intense whistling and booing.
“Manie has been going from strength to strength on the team and has only been with us for eight weeks,” Nienaber said.
“You can see how he’s taken over things rugby, on and off the pitch, and we’re very excited to see what he can do at Twickenham.
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“The games are getting bigger and so is the pressure. I think there will be quite a bit of experience and I think it will be similar to what we experienced in Marseille.”
“It’s good for his development and it’s good that we have him with us.”
England manager Eddie Jones will name his matchday 23 on Thursday with kick-off at 19:30 SA time.