Willemse v Libbok: Nienaber unpacks pivotal poser
There was a clamour for Manie Libbok’s inclusion in South Africa’s starting XV for Saturday’s encounter with England.
However, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber – as he has done with another Stormers star in Evan Roos – has opted to ‘ease’ Libbok into the Test cauldron.
Libbok, in only his second Test, produced an impressive 34-minute performance in the 63-21 win over Italy this past weekend – two carries for 24 metres, 12 passes and one offload.
As a ‘game driver’ the 25-year-old was influential enough to earn @rugby365com’s Man of the Match award.
In only his second Test he looked at home at international level and brought his own brand of magic to the game.
Damian Willemse, at 24 a year younger than Libbok, played 80 minutes – starting at flyhalf and then moving to wing when Cheslin Kolbe left the field with an injury early in the second half.
Willemse produced eight carries for 111 metres, made four tackle breaks, 17 passes and one offload.
Nienaber said Libbok, despite having only 40 minutes of Test rugby to his credit, is going from strength to strength.
“He has only been with us for eight weeks,” the coach told a media briefing in the build-up to Saturday’s Test against England.
“You can see how he is taking more ownership – infield and off-field rugby stuff.
“We are really excited to see what he can do at Twickenham, also as the games get bigger and bigger – when there is more pressure.”
Nienaber said the atmosphere at a sold-out Twickenham will be as intense as it was during the 26-30 loss to France in Marseille a fortnight ago.
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“It is good for his development and it is nice for us to have him with us,” the coach said.
He added that Willemse is doing well at No.10 and “driving the team” well.
“He only started playing at flyhalf after about five Tests into this year,” Nienaber said about the injury-enforced absence of Handre Pollard and personal issues surrounding Elton Jantjies that opened up the opportunity for the 24-year-old utility back to move to No.10.
Willemse, after seven starts at fullback and playing 11 times off the bench, started at flyhalf for the first time against Australia in Sydney in September.
The coach added that Willemse is just starting to settle in the flyhalf channel.
“He is also getting lekker [good] experience playing at No.10.
“We know that he can do it for us at No.12 and No.15.
“It is nice to have the two of them.”