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Libbok has enough ice in his veins to pull Stormers through against La Rochelle

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Manie Libbok produced a lukewarm performance during last weekend’s United Rugby Championship encounter against Ulster, and will definitely be targeted by the big loose forwards of the current European champions in a bid to unsettle him.

Manie Libbok of the Stormers. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Leighton Koopman

Stormers supporters shouldn’t worry too much about last Saturday’s ‘offish’ performance of flyhalf Manie Libbok ahead of Saturday’s massive Champions Cup knockout clash against La Rochelle (4pm kick-off).

Libbok produced a lukewarm performance during last weekend’s United Rugby Championship encounter against Ulster, and will definitely be targeted by the big loose forwards of the current European champions in a bid to unsettle him.

There’s no doubt that Levani Botia and company will pile into his channel when they carry the ball, and try to stop him in his tracks when the Stormers are on the attack.

It’s a replay of the group stages when the Cape side and French giants square up at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, and those who are questioning Libbok after last week’s clash will do well to remember that it was the World Cup winner who sunk La Rochelle back in December.

He slotted a difficult conversion from the touchline after a last-gasp try to seal a 21-20 victory, and he triumphantly lifted his fists into the Cape Town sky when he sweetly struck the ball through the posts.

Against Ulster, things didn’t go according to plan – he missed a couple of regulation penalty attempts at goal, and dropped a few high balls that he should have fielded.

He took a knock to the head against Edinburgh, and maybe that played a role last weekend as he sported a bandage.

But the Stormers will be happy if Libbok displays that goldfish-like memory head coach John Dobson always says his pivot possesses – that ability to forget an off day in a certain department, like his kicking, and turn it around for the next game or even during the match.

He has displayed that type of reliability and confidence plenty of times in the past – the La Rochelle game in the ‘group of death’ is one example.

And it’s not like his attacking prowess was off his usual high standards against Ulster – things just didn’t go the Stormers’ way in that first half, when they had the ball in hand.

But once Libbok and company found their groove on attack, things sparkled in the second half, and he contributed to a handful of typical running rugby moves with some terrific runs and passes.

Another attacking masterclass from the Springbok pivot will set up the Stormers nicely in their quest to reach the quarter-finals for the second time in a row.

Of course, he must be defensively sound when La Rochelle players come down his channel as well.

But should he have another off day with his kicks at goal – which would be a rarity – the Stormers could be in some trouble.

Dobson compared the La Rochelle clash to a Test match.

The Stormers won’t want to leave it to a last-minute converted try or penalty to clinch a second successive victory over their visitors. Should it come down to that, though, Libbok will have the ice in his veins to secure the glory for his side.

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