Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
3 minute read
16 Jun 2022
7:30 am

Battle of the No 10s in URC final: It’s Libbok against Smith

Ken Borland

"Both flyhalves control the game well, but in very contrasting ways. What they both do very well is manage space."

Manie Libbok of the Stormers. Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images

A flamboyant flyhalf who can kick well with either foot versus an unassuming No 10 who makes few mistakes: This will be the matchup on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship final between the Stormers and Bulls, and Springbok legend Joel Stransky believes the weather in Cape Town could decide who comes away with the spoils.

Manie Libbok is the adventurous Stormers flyhalf who overcame a poor semi-final to throw the pass for the equalising try and then slotted the touchline conversion.

Read more: Stormers edge Ulster to book all-SA home final against Bulls

Chris Smith was his typically consistent self in the Bulls’ shock win over Leinster, bringing a maturity and calmness under pressure to the flyhalf position.

Read more: Magnificent, magical Bulls shock Leinster

“Both flyhalves control the game well,” Stransky said ahead of the big final, “but in very contrasting ways. What they both do very well is manage space.

“Chris is rock-solid, brings nothing special, no scintillating breaks, but he defends well, he’s a bit bigger, and he frees up the talent outside him. The Bulls have actually scored seven more tries than the Stormers.

“Chris kicks very well and he doesn’t make mistakes, which will be quite important if it is wet, because errors can cost you in a final. He could be the difference if there is parity up front.

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The Bulls’ Chris Smith will play a big part in the final. Picture: Ben Evans/Gallo Images

“Manie kicks well with either foot, he runs well and defends his channel. That last pass over the top (in the semi-final) was because he is confident due to the faith put in him and the liberty he’s been given to play what’s in front of him,” Stransky, a celebrated flyhalf who scored all South Africa’s points in the 1995 World Cup final, said.

Stransky would love a dry night

While Stransky, who brought an appealing mix of skilful kicking and exciting attacking play to the Springbok team, would love to see a dry evening in Cape Town on Saturday, but the weather forecast does not look good and he believes rain will favour the Stormers.

“I hope rain does not put a dampener on the final. Rain would suit the Stormers with their big, strong front row and bench. The Bulls will have to move the ball around a bit because of the Stormers’ strong pack and midfield.

“But as much as we backs would like to think differently, the game will be won and lost up front. The scrum play such a massive part and if it’s wet then you would expect more mistakes and more scrums.

“You would expect Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe to have a bit more dominance, so you have to look at the Stormers if it’s a tighter game.

“But if it’s looser, then the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Elrigh Louw and Arno Botha are more dynamic ball-carriers. The Stormers do have the outstanding Evan Roos, but Hacjivah Dayimani is not so much a hard carrier and Deon Fourie is a proper openside,” Stransky said.

Read more: Stormers gearing up for wet weather URC final against Bulls