Springboks bat off concerns over Libbok’s goal-kickingMon, 11 Sep 2023 10:28:19 GMT

South Africa’s last two World Cup titles, in 2019 and 2007, highlighted the importance of a sharp-shooting goalkicker, Handre Pollard and Percy Montgomery’s consummate skill off the kicking tee a key factor in their teams’ success.But questions were raised after South Africa’s 18-3 opening Pool B victory over Scotland on Sunday when Bok fly-half Manie Libbok missed two penalties and a conversion in a tight game where every point counted.Apart from the anomaly of the 2011 World Cup, which New Zealand won with the unlikely figure of Piri Weepu their top scorer after injuries to fly-halves Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade, every team winning the Webb Ellis Cup has had a reliable goalkicker.England had Jonny Wilkinson in 2003, Carter marshalled the All Blacks in 2015, Montgomery racked up 105 points in 2007 while Pollard was top scorer with 69 when the Boks won in Japan four years ago.”Not if he wins man of the match,” was Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s blunt response to whether he had any concern over Libbok’s missed kicks.Libbok, 26, won that award after taking control in the second half of a gritty forwards-based match in Marseille and coming up with one particular piece of magic for the Boks’ second try that effectively sealed the win.The Stormers fly-half produced a perfectly-judged, no-look cross-kick to Kurt-Lee Arendse, the winger catching the ball in full flight and speeding away for a try that Faf de Klerk, having taken over the kicking duties from Libbok, duly converted from the touchline.Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi was quick to defend Libbok, saying: “This question about missing kicks gets asked a lot.”We play as a team and sometimes you’re not good at one thing on the day.”But the way Manie attacked, the way he took control of the team, how he was a general, people forget that and they remember” the missed kicks.- Working as a group -Kolisi added: “Faf can kick, Cheslin (Kolbe) can kick. If someone’s lacking somewhere, somebody else takes over.”It’s the same for me , sometimes I don’t know what to call in the game, Duane (Vermuelen) or Eben (Etzebeth) or Manie will make the call.”If someone’s lacking somebody else picks up. He’s not going to be good at everything every single game. That’s why we work together, (and) don’t get stressed about it.”Libbok said he was “just honoured and grateful to wear the jersey”.”To have the opportunity at a World Cup is a dream come true for me. I am just stoked the first game went like it did. I can take confidence out of this and move forward now.”Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, himself a former international fly-half, said Libbok was “a threat with no-look kicks and a variety to his game, accuracy as well with his kicking game”.”He’s able to run, pass and kick. He’s a great addition to an already talented South African back line and team. “And he is helping them play a more attacking game than maybe at the previous World Cup. That would put a lot of pressure on opposition defences like it did against ours.”Kolisi’s pep talk will be a boost for Libbok, but there is no doubt the issue will be a hot topic for Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.Nienaber also explained Erasmus’ use of a so-called “traffic light system”, whereby the former Bok flanker — known for his unconventional methods — flashes up red, amber or yellow lights to better communicate instructions from his box in the tribune to assistants on the touchline.”In terms of the lights, it started when we played France in Marseille in November,” Nienaber said, explaining that pitch-side noise made communication with support staff difficult.”I am sure a lot of teams will have systems, whether it is green or red… so they can communicate.”You can use hand signals for communication. I don’t think you need any permission from World Rugby.”