Kicking blues gives Libbok look-in
Nienaber won’t blame players for missed kicks
In the aftermath of their 19-16 defeat by Ireland, Springbok management was faced with the prickly question of where Manie Libbok will be heading on Sunday.
The Springboks were left to rue missed attempts at goal but perhaps more damningly a general lack of authority when they had to apply the boot in a Test that was decided by tight margins.
There had been concerns about the lack of a reliable goal-kicker in the match-day squad and those fears proved warranted.
Damian Willemse and Cheslin Kolbe both missed shots at goal that might have swung the match in SA’s favour.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, though, was loath to throw Saturday’s kickers under the bus.
“I’ll never blame the player for that. They must just keep working at it. The guys have to get better at it,” he said.
“Goal-kicking is important. There are other players who made mistakes but it goes unseen. It is different for a place kicker because what he does is under the magnifying glass.”.
In the absence of Handré Pollard and Elton Jantjies, Willemse acquitted himself well in the Rugby Championship and though he spread himself far and wide across the Aviva Stadium, the Boks missed a sure hand on the tiller at 10.
In Libbok, the Bok management have a reliable sharp shooter, who happens to be right at their disposal. He was the top scorer in the United Rugby Championship last season and was central to the Stormers’ victory in the inaugural competition. This season he has picked up where he left off.
Nienaber was coy about Libbok’s travel plans. The Springboks were scheduled to fly to Marseille last night, while the SA “A” team has an appointment with Munster in Cork on Thursday.
“We haven’t actually decided yet. We will sit down now and assess as the doc goes through the team. If there are injuries that will change who goes to Marseille or who stays behind,” he said when asked whether Libbok would head for Marseille or Cork.
The Bok brains trust will need to be snappy in reaching a decision.