Manie Libbok’s goal-kicking remains a hot topic for debate, but Rassie Erasmus says the flyhalf is helping the Springboks play an attacking brand of rugby the fans want to see.
Libbok was on song with three conversions in South Africa’s 49-18 victory against World Cup Pool B rivals Tonga in Marseille on Sunday. He came off the bench for Handre Pollard, having started in the Boks’ tournament-opening win over Scotland and a defeat to top-ranked Ireland.
Libbok’s consistency from the kicking tee raised its head again in France after five misses from 11 attempts, but has made up for it with an excellent display in open play, highlighted by a no-look cross-kick to set up Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try against Scotland. The 26-year-old has shrugged off criticism of his indifferent form on goal, while Erasmus insisted the 12-Test pivot is a key player for the Boks despite the return of World Cup-winning No 10 Pollard.
Asked on Monday in a Bok conference if the coaches had been working with Libbok on his time management of the shot-clock with his kicks, SA’s director of rugby Erasmus told reporters: “I won’t take any credit with that. If somebody helped him it would be ‘Stokke’ [Mzwandile Stick].
“We know it’s a nice talking point and [kicking] wins games. Yes, it true. But tries also wins games and the way we play is to try and score tries. I really think we have been attacking much better, like the country has asked us to do and the supporters are always wanting us to be more creative and not just have this kicking game.
“Manie brings that to us. He certainly has worked hard with Handre and maybe it’s Handre who gave him a tip or two. I don’t think the shot clock was ever an issue with him and Manie is a very interesting character when it comes to something like that.
“It doesn’t bother him for the rest of his game and that is something special to have. It would be nice to have him on the park for that general play and if he is on song and fantastic with his kicking, but somebody else who can back him up if he does have a bad day.”