VIDEO: Nienaber reveals what will 'secure' Libbok a Bok starting spot
Midway through 2021, Immanuel Libbok must have thought his stuttering professional career had hit another dead end.
Now, just over a year after his well-documented move to the Stormers, he is ‘one injury’ away from a starting place in the Springbok team.
It is a far cry from the position he found himself in while playing ‘musical positions’ at the Bulls and Sharks.
After matriculating at Hoërskool Outeniqua, in George, Libbok moved to Pretoria to join the Blue Bulls academy.
Despite playing 10 matches for the Baby Boks (South Africa Under-20) in 2016 and 2017, he never really settled down in Pretoria.
His move to the Sharks in 2020 did not last long, nor did it bring any stability to his career.
In September 2021 he arrived in Cape Town and it required just one season of Stormers coach John Dobson backing him in the No.10 channel for the young man to finally begin delivering on the promise he showed as a schoolboy.
Last Saturday, at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, Libbok made his Springbok debut – a four-minute cameo in the 26-30 loss to France.
It is expected Libbok will get a lot more game time against Italy in Genoa this coming Saturday.
Libbok will cover flyhalf, centre, wing and fullback off a Bok bench that features just two backs and six forwards.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said Libbok is ‘one injury’ away from a starting spot.
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“He is our back-up No.10 currently,” he said of the versatile one-cap 25-year-old – with Damian Willemse the starting flyhalf in the absence of the injured Handre Pollard and self-exiled Elton Jantjies.
“He [Libbok] is really close [to a starting spot],” Nienaber added.
The Bok coach praised Libbok for his hard work in training, putting that down as one of the main reasons for his selection on the bench.
“He has been with us for four or five weeks, so he is comfortable in the system, growing within our environment and slotting in nicely.
“Manie’s versatility will also come in handy, as he can cover most positions in the backline.
“With Cobus [Reinach] on the bench and several experienced backs in the backline, he will have enough guidance to be able play to his game.”
Nienaber also explained the reason behind the all-new second row of Salmaan Moerat and Marvin Orie.
Nienaber said Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth has been a good servant of the team this year and it was a good time to implement their ‘rotation policy’ in the second row.
“Salmaan [Moerat] has been training very hard in the last few weeks and deserve a chance to start,” the coach said, adding: “The injury of Lodewyk [de Jager] and the disciplinary hearing of Pieter-Steph [du Toit] opened the door for us to give Salmaan and Marvin [Orie] an opportunity.
“Salmaan and Marvin are both Stormers players, so they have been playing together for a while.
“They have been playing well at URC level and they are very hungry for game time, so we are looking forward to what they bring to the game.”
He said with Franco Mostert at No.7 and Etzebeth on the bench, they are fortunate to have depth in the second row.