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Unfair criticism levelled at Libbok?

OPINION: @rugby365com contributor Angus Opperman dissects the importance of Manie Libbok in the Stormers set-up amid scrutiny.

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In the aftermath of the Stormers’ hard-fought win over the Dragons – their first on overseas soil in the URC since October 8, 2022, against Zebre – there were many bright signs for the inaugural champions.

The likes of Warrick Gelant and Evan Roos showed great improvements in form while coming back from injury Sascha Feinburg-Mngomezulu was also impressive.

But one player who probably didn’t get all the recognition he should’ve on the night is the mercurial Immanuel ‘Manie’ Libbok.

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Libbok, who went into the 2023 RWC with a mere seven Test caps has been under public scrutiny, fairly and unfairly at most times.

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His game-breaking ability has been clouded by inconsistent goal-kicking and he is usually lamented by the general public and some pundits.

But so often his boot was the deciding factor between winning or losing – yet the result seldom came down to the latter.

Two instances that stand out are the loss against Ireland in the RWC pool match and the other being his missed kick at goal in terrible windy conditions against La Rochelle in a Champions Cup Round of 16 clash.

Even the best goalkicker would have most likely missed that kick on the day.

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However, in the game against the Dragons, he seemed to have fine-tuned his technique, slotting eight from eight and this bodes well for the Stormers’ charge to a third consecutive URC Final.

The Stormers did themselves no favours by losing four on the bounce on their overseas tour last November¬† – a tour Libbok wasn’t part of due to Springbok rest protocols.

They also slipped up against the Ospreys at home in a match where the whole team misfired on the day.

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The side is now fighting to maintain a top-eight spot and hoping a few other results go their way to sneak into the top four to earn a home quarterfinal.

Libbok’s game-breaking ability, with his seemingly newly-found form in goal-kicking, will put a smile on head coach John Dobson’s face, especially given that is what’s needed for the final stretch heading towards the play-offs.

The faith to retain Libbok will bear fruit once more if he retains his current form for the remainder of the season.

It also bodes well for him being the preferred candidate for the Springbok No.10 jumper later this year.

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