Pollard or Libbok? Springbok greats weigh in on Rugby World Cup flyhalf debate

Pollard or Libbok? Springbok greats weigh in on Rugby World Cup flyhalf debate

Former Springbok flyhalf Butch James feels for Manie Libbok after his struggles off the tee at the Rugby World Cup, as he also weighed in on the return of Handre Pollard.

James, who was the starting flyhalf during the Boks' victorious 2007 World Cup campaign, sympathised with the current number 10, who has been copping a lot of flak from fans after his misses from the tee.

However, he believes that Libbok is running the best South African attack of the last decade.

"There has been a lot of talk on Manie's kicking in the press conferences," James said on the latest Boks Office podcast following the defeat to Ireland.

"It is really hard to put it out of your mind, the only thing you can do is go to the practice field and go through your routine that you're going to do on the field and make sure you put the hours in. So when you do go on the field it is almost second nature.

"I thought he has been outstanding [in his role as fly-half]. I really believe our attack is the best it has been in the last 10 years.

"I can't remember the Springboks attacking so nicely. I really don't recall it being so good. We have got the muscle, we are a physical team, but we do have a bit of flair now as well."

Fellow 2007 World Cup winner and former Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers agreed with James and highlighted that he wasn't the only player who missed shots at goal.

"When he misses kicks, it doesn't affect his game, which is a positive," the former centre said.

"As we have been saying, I think the strategy needs to change a little bit, and that will take the pressure off whoever kicks at goal. Remember Faf [de Klerk] also missed."

Meanwhile, 2019 World Cup winner Pollard is back in the Boks squad as a replacement for the injured Malcolm Marx and will start this weekend's final pool game against Tonga.

The return of Pollard is set to ease the kicking woes of the defending champions, with the pivot starring in that regard during the tournament four years ago in Japan.

There has been talk of Pollard shifting to inside centre to accommodate Libbok at flyhalf, and while James believes that it is a possibility, he added that it does come with its own drawbacks.

"I think the other option would be to play Handre at 12," he said.

"I just think it is a real tough one; our number 12s Andre [Esterhuizen] and Damian [de Allende] both give us so much go-forward, I don't think Handre would be able to offer us the same go-forward.

"In saying that, it would sort out our goal-kicking. We all know Handre hasn't played a lot of rugby in the last year; I think he has only played 40 minutes in the last month.

"So for him to come on the pitch, play well and get all his kicks is quite a lot of pressure. We do know he has got the experience. It's a tough call.

"I really do feel sorry for Manie."

South Africa face Tonga on Sunday in their final Pool B fixture.

READ MORE: Handre Pollard slots into Springbok starting line-up for clash against Tonga