Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok has seen his star rise this season, thanks to some superb performances in the United Rugby Championship for his new team.
At 24 years of age Libbok is already a bit of a journeyman, having started his career at the Bulls before moving on to the Sharks and then arriving at the Stormers at the start of this season, but he finally seems to have found a place to call home.
“I am very happy where I am at the moment and I am enjoying my rugby. Joining the Stormers was a great decision and from the word go when I arrived here the guys have made me feel at home,” said Libbok.
“Playing for this team has been amazing and I am just grateful for the opportunity that coach Dobbo (John Dobson) has given me. Not just the opportunity but also the responsibility to drive the team.
“So I just want to take this opportunity and use it, putting my best foot forward every week for the team and jersey. I want to make sure that I put in my contribution so that I can help the team do well.”
During his time at the Bulls and Sharks, Libbok struggled to establish himself as a regular starter, although at both unions he was seen as a utility back and was unable to nail down a single position, which in the end proved detrimental to his game.
“The fact that I have been backed in one position has really helped me with my game here at the Stormers. I have been able to establish my own game, and being able to plan week on week in one position has helped me grow my game massively,” explained Libbok.
“Each and every game I play I have been able to grow and get better. I think that is the big difference of being here at the Stormers. When I was at the Bulls and Sharks I just wasn’t able to settle in one position.
“But being backed like I have here at the Stormers and the faith shown in me by the coaches has helped me build confidence and has led to me playing like I am at the moment.”
Libbok also has a strong contingent of former and current Springboks around him, with Herschel Jantjies at nine and Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant at 12 and 15, which has allowed him to express himself as a player.
“Having these guys around me is great. They are special players and to play with them has obviously helped me and I really enjoy playing with them,” Libbok said.
“Myself and Damian played together in the junior structures and myself and Warrick played together at the Bulls.
“So knowing those guys helps and playing with quality players like them around me frees me up to be me and allows me to bring my A game to the backs and just do my thing.”
Due to his impressive form in the URC this season, which currently sees him as the competition’s top points scorer, the question inevitably arises whether Libbok will be in Springbok contention come the start of the international season.
With Handre Pollard having just returned to action, Elton Jantjies recovering from surgery and former Bok utility back Johan Goosen also still recovering from a long-term injury, there may be a spot open for Libbok in the Welsh series if he can finish off his URC campaign well.
“I do aspire to play for the Boks – it is every player’s dream to play for the Boks one day – but for me now I am just focusing on playing well for the Stormers and if I can keep doing that I believe the rest will look after itself,” said Libbok.
“This team is special. From where we came from at the beginning of the competition up till now the growth has been amazing and that is all we strive for.
“To be better, get better and grow together, and if we keep on doing that it will give us a chance to go all the way in this tournament, and I believe we can.”