Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Boks back Libbok to play his ‘natural game,’ says boss Nienaber

There are several changes to the Bok team for the match against France in Marseille on Saturday.

Flyhalf Manie Libbok may get an opportunity to show what he can do on the international stage after he was included on the Springbok bench for their clash against France at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday night.

The Boks have gone through a flyhalf crisis this year, and currently have Damian Willemse starting in the position, after initially being picked as the starting fullback during the early parts of the season.

However goal kicking has now become an issue, with Willemse and Cheslin Kolbe both missing vital kicks in the tight loss against Ireland over the past weekend, which is something Libbok will be able to rectify if needed against France.

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“The nice thing about Manie is this is his third week with us, and from my perspective looking at him running in the training sessions he is a lot more comfortable in terms of running the show and getting used to the calls,” said Bok coach Jacques Nienaber during the team announcement press conference.

“He is getting nice and comfortable and we are confident that if he does get an opportunity he will be able to play his natural game. What I would like to see from him, and what the team needs from him, is for him to do what he does best and to play with his specific skill set that is available to him.

“So we are looking forward to seeing him in action and we are hoping that things pan out in a way that we can give him a run on the field.”

Changes up front

Nienaber was however at pains to explain the situation at flyhalf after being pressed again on the goal kicking aspect, explaining that they were missing Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn, but that the current group was working incredibly hard and would come right in time.

Looking at the rest of the match 23 to play France, the Boks made a number of changes to the side that played against Ireland, with most of them rotational.

Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi come in for starts, with Steven Kitshoff and Malcolm Marx dropping to the bench, while Franco Mostert slots in at lock for the injured Lood de Jager in the changes to the forwards.

World class nines

In the backline, Jaden Hendrikse drops out of the match 23, with Faf de Klerk starting and Cobus Reinach on the bench, while Kolbe returns to wing, with Makazole Mapimpi dropping to the bench and Willie le Roux back at fullback.

Springboks Reinach
Cobus Reinach gets a rare chance this weekend. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

“We are truly blessed with world class nines. Jaden started the year as our third choice and has done very well, and then we have Cobus and Faf who have been very successful with us in the past,” explained Nienaber when asked about the scrumhalf changes.

“We just felt that Jaden has started about six or seven games in a row now, and we thought it is time to give the other guys a run. Faf brought good energy when he came on (against Ireland), and we have a guy like Cobus who plays his rugby in this part of the world and knows the players quite well.

“He is also very exciting and can maybe unlock something when he comes on. So it is just a bit of a rotation and a chance to give other guys an opportunity.”

Nienaber added: “I thought Willie brought good direction when he came on against Ireland and he brings in all that experience. So we thought with the likes of Cheslin and Kurt-Lee they would make a good partnership.

“We know Makazole is a quality player, and it’s another position where we have three top players who can finish. So we thought that this would be our best combination to go up against the French, who play a bit of a different game to other teams.”

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