Manie Libbok grateful for ‘tough times’ leading to first Springboks start

Jared Wright
Springboks Manie Libbok celebrate after South africa's win

Springboks flyhalf Manie Libbok celebrates beating England at Twickenham.

Manie Libbok is embracing the pressures of starting a Test match for the Springboks for the first time this weekend when South Africa take on the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The 25-year-old earns his first start at Loftus Versfeld after featuring three times off the bench last November.

Wallabies to target Libbok

The Stormers playmaker predicts that the Wallabies will target him in the match but is determined to give his best for the Springboks.

“This (starting against Australia) is a big opportunity for me,” Libbok told the media ahead of the game.

“There will be massive pressure on me in this game, but I just want to go out there and contribute in my role as much as possible, and hopefully we can get the desired result.

“I know they’ll target me, but I’ve made peace with that, and the pressure.

“That said, I’ve taken a lot of confidence from my preparation for this match, and the main thing for me is to control what I can control. I’ll have a few experienced players around me, which is also a bonus.”

Libbok’s route to becoming a Springbok has been a bumpy one after struggling to find his feet as a regular starter at the Bulls and Sharks.

However, he nailed down the starting role at Stormers, guiding the side to a maiden United Rugby Championship (URC) in 2022 and a runners-up finish this year.

‘Tough times’

Reflecting on his journey, Libbok admits that it has not been easy but adds that the challenge has made him a better player.

“Looking back at where my career began to where I am now, it wasn’t easy, but I’m grateful for those tough times and to be here (at the Springboks),” said Libbok.

“It helped me learn more as a player and develop under different coaches, but it also built character.

“I’ve always wanted to become a Springbok, and I knew that in order to achieve that, I had to keep my head down and keep working, so I am honoured to have this opportunity to play.”

While the defeat to Munster in this season’s URC final was disappointing for the fly-half, he believes that the high-pressure game time of knockout rugby has been valuable to him personally.

 

“It was great for me and the team to win the URC last year, and while we didn’t defend our title this season, I learned a lot during the competition, and I appreciate the playing opportunities,” the pivot said.

“I tried to improve in every game I played and to grow as a player.”

Libbok will go up against Quade Cooper on Saturday with the veteran Wallaby named as Eddie Jones’ starting fly-half for their Rugby Championship opener.

It is Cooper’s first game for the Wallabies in South Africa since 2013, while Jones’ charges will be out to claim their first win in the republic since 2011.

READ MORE: Eddie Jones names four debutants in his first Wallabies team to face the Springboks