Manie Libbok downplays role in Springbok's World Cup campaign

  • By Kate Nokwe

  • 15th August 2023

Manie Libbok downplays role in Springbok's World Cup campaign

Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok may be going to France with the weight of South Africa on his shoulders, but the would-be debutant cannot look past making the 2023 Rugby World Cup selection in the first place.

SA won the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equaling third time in 2019, with flyhalf Joel Stransky the hero in 1995 before the boot of Percy Montgomery delivered 12 years later.

Perhaps the 26-year-old from Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape is oblivious to how critical his role is, especially with Handre Pollard out of the squad. 

Libbok has even dismissed the notion that he will be the first-choice at 10.

"There's a lot of pressure", he conceded initially, when pressed by SABC Sport

"[But] I won't say I'm number, to be honest. Obviously, I'm not the selector, but I'm just honoured to be here. I'm just looking forward to going to the World Cup, to give my all for the country. 

"[But] there's a lot of pressure on all of us. [Personally] I'm just focusing on what I can control to prepare for the best of my ability."

Libbok may not see himself as a pivot, but he is the only regular first-class kicker in the entire squad and started the last two Tests – both against Argentina – ahead of his versatile Stormers teammate Damian Willemse.

Perhaps the polarising Libbok can be forgiven for his naivety – after all, the Stormers talisman went from trying to play his way into the Bok squad just a season ago to now going to his first World Cup. 

But the absence of veteran Pollard has only accelerated the inevitable – at least, according to the general populace in South Africa.

"Obviously, there’ll always be doubt. You’re competing against high-class players”, Libbok said, confessing to the fear of not being selected in Jacques Nienaber's 33-man squad. 

Nienaber has previously reserved high praise for the youngster with only seven international caps.

His calm demeanour under pressure enabled him to deliver the 2022 United Rugby Championship with one of the most difficult kicks of the night in the Stormers' inaugural season in the competition against teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy.

Expectedly though, the call-up to France 2023 is a feat yet to be matched for the 26-year-old.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I’m highly honoured to be making the squad. [It’s] definitely number one in my achievements”, he concluded.