Home Sport Libbok would have been ideal choice to steer Springbok ship at Twickenham

Libbok would have been ideal choice to steer Springbok ship at Twickenham

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The 35-minute cameo that Manie Libbok played for the Springboks in last week’s thrashing of Italy was the stuff of dreams.

Manie Libbok should have started for the Springboks against England. Photo: Luca Sighinolfi/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Cape Town – The 35-minute cameo that Manie Libbok played for the Springboks in last week’s thrashing of Italy was the stuff of dreams.

He pulled out many of the magic tricks that he produces for the Stormers on a weekly basis – the silky passing, the deft cross-kicks, the visionary decision-making.

And I don’t buy the refrain from some critics that it was “only Italy”. When Libbok replaced the injured Cheslin Kolbe, the score was 23-16 to the South Africans with more than half-an-hour to go in Genoa.

They ended up winning 63-21, which means that the Boks scored 40 points and conceded five while Libbok was on the Stadio Luigi Ferraris pitch.

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He drilled the touchline conversion for his first Test points as well, and seemed totally unflustered against an Azzurri outfit that we shouldn’t forget beat Australia a week earlier, and have also beaten Wales in the Six Nations.

So, I felt that it was a missed opportunity by Bok coach Jacques Nienaber to not give the Stormers pivot a start in Saturday’s Test against England in front of 82,000 spectators at Twickenham.

Nienaber opted to stick with Damian Willemse in the No 10, and explained his decision to keep Libbok on the bench as follows: “Manie is going from strength-to-strength in the squad.

“He has been with us for about eight weeks, and you can see how he has taken more ownership in terms of the rugby stuff – on the field and off it. We are really excited to see what he can do at Twickenham.

“The games are getting bigger and bigger, and there will be more pressure … It will be similar to what we experienced in Marseille (against France). It is good for his development, and it is nice to have him with us.

“Were we tempted (to start Libbok)? I think Damian is doing well, and he is driving the team forward. He only started after about five Test matches this year to settle in at 10.

“He is getting lekker experience playing at 10. We know he can do it for us at 12 and at 15. It is nice to have the two of them.”

Of course, every player would want more time to get used to Test-level rugby, especially a flyhalf. But surely Nienaber now knows what Willemse can produce at No.10, having seen him in action in three consecutive matches on the November tour?

While the main objective in any Test is to win, part of the European trip is also to try out a few different combinations ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

So, with that in mind, Libbok would have been an inspired choice to steer the Bok ship in London, and it didn’t have to mean that Willemse should be sidelined either …

With the Bok mentor mentioning that “we know he can do it for us at 12 and at 15”, he could have tried out the Libbok-Willemse 10-12 partnership that was at the heart of the Stormers’ URC title-winning campaign last season, with either one of Damian de Allende or Jesse Kriel at outside centre.

At least Evan Roos was given a start at No.8 by Nienaber, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against England’s giant Billy Vunipola …

@ashfakmohamed

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