Stransky's pick for Bok back-up at No.10
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The United Rugby Championship Final between Stormers and Bulls could be a good glimpse into the future of Springboks’ flyhalf stocks, according to World Cup-winning No.10 Joel Stransky.
The Stormers and the Bulls will face each other at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday in the inaugural URC Final.
Aside from adding to the already intense long-lasting rivalry, the North-South derby will have several sideshows across the park.
And with wet-weather conditions expected in Cape Town on Saturday, one battle that will certainly be important is at flyhalf – Manie Libbok versus Chris Smith.
Speaking during a URC round-table talk, Stransky hinted that the two are building a solid case for the Springboks jersey.
“If we look at the Springbok squad that will go to the World Cup, there’s a lot of talk around who will be the second-choice flyhalf,” Stransky said.
“You’d think, right now, those two [Libbok and Smith] are vying for that position.
“Elton [Jantjies] will be 33 next year and we’re not seeing too much of him at the moment.
“Both of them [Libbok and Smith] are putting their hands up, and it’s very good to see.”
Stormers No.10 Libbok has been incredible for his team.
The 24-year-old’s 87th-minute conversion of Warrick Gelant’s try cliched a 17-15 win over Ulster in the semifinal last weekend.
Meanwhile, Bulls flyhalf Smith has made the No.10 his own.
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The 27-year-old ‘s injury-time drop-goal in the quarterfinal against the Sharks in Pretoria set up a semifinal clash against Leinster, which the Bulls dominated to clinch a spot in the Final.
Stransky explained that Libbok and Smith are very different.
However, they possess the attributes that are lacking in other flyhalves in the country at the moment.
“They’re very contrasting, and I think what they both do really well.
“I need to be careful how I word this because I don’t want to put Curwin Bosch in a bad light, but he is not a good manager of space, and as a result, the Sharks backline has never really fired.
“With these two guys, they create space well, and they do it quite differently.
“Chris is rock-solid – nothing special, no scintillating breaks, but he’s a little bigger and stronger, he makes his tackles and he defends that channel well, and with that, he frees up the guys around him. The Bulls have scored seven tries more than the Stormers, which you’d never have predicted at the start of the season.
“He kicks well and while he doesn’t do the flashy things, he doesn’t make mistakes.
“Libbok, however, runs well, kicks well off either foot and in the big moments he has delivered.
“That pass last Saturday [for Gelant to score the match-winning try] was made because he is confident and the coaching staff have put that confidence in him.
“They are two young players who have found a way and have come to the fore.
“The whole game management package is what you want, and both teams have that.”
The 1995 World Cup winner, who kicked over the match-winning drop-goal in the World Cup Final against New Zealand, found it very challenging to predict a winner.
He stated that both teams are evenly-match.
“If you have to predict, stupid to bet against Bulls because they’ve beaten Leinster away.
“But it’s also hard not to pick the home side who rise to the big occasion.”