Springboks greats discuss ‘real tough’ Manie Libbok and Handre Pollard selection call

Jared Wright
Former Springboks flyhalf Butch James and current playmaker Manie Libbok - Rugby World Cup

Former fly-half Butch James comments on Springboks pivot Manie Libbok.

Former Springboks fly-half Butch James says he feels for Manie Libbok after his struggles off the tee during the Rugby World Cup and also weighs in on the return of Handre Pollard.

James, who was the starting fly-half 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.

Best Springboks attack

“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 Springboks 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.”

Handre Pollard’s return

Meanwhile, 2019 World Cup winner Pollard is back in the Boks squad as a replacement for the injured Malcolm Marx.

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 upon his return for the Boks, 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.

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