Libbok goal-kicking woes? Bok coach, captain back flyhalf to ‘come right’

Libbok goal-kicking woes? Bok coach, captain back flyhalf to 'come right'
Libbok goal-kicking woes? Bok coach, captain back flyhalf to 'come right'

Africa-Press – South-Africa. Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber may have come across as flippant when addressing Manie Libbok’s goal-kicking issues in his past two starting Test matches, but what can’t be faulted is the faith he retains in the budding pivot.

Libbok’s last two Bok games where he started at 10 have re-opened the goalkicking debate, especially with the World Cup around the corner while Handre Pollard returns from fitness.

While Libbok’s match management, tactical kicking, and general composure aren’t in question, his goal kicking is.

Libbok missed two penalties and three conversions despite South Africa’s comfortable 52-16 win against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Even in the Argentina game on 5 August, Libbok had a forgettable start with the boot before getting his act together in the second half.

Nienaber was only belatedly aware that Libbok had an off-game with the boot, despite the big win at the Principality Stadium.

“Was he bad?” Nienaber asked after Saturday’s match.

“How many did he miss? Well, it’s just five shots, so he can keep on going.”

It’s not the first time Libbok’s kicking has come under scrutiny, with the Stormers’ United Rugby Championship fixture against Munster in mid-April being one of those games where Libbok had a costly off-day.

In that 26-24 loss at the Cape Town Stadium, Libbok missed three penalties and two conversions, points that made a difference not just in the game, but in the long run of the tournament.

Saturday’s misses came on the back of Libbok averaging 75 and 76 percent respectively for the two previous URC campaigns in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 campaigns where he was the top points scorer in the Stormers’ runs to both finals.

Before that, Libbok didn’t kick in the 2020 season when he was at the Sharks, while he was at the Bulls in the 2019 season, he averaged 68 percent.

Ahead of Welsh walloping, Libbok was sitting at 65 percent in national colours, a ratio that will be affected by yesterday’s display despite potting five conversions.

In the aftermath of the Munster meltdown, then Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff understandably came to Libbok’s defence.

“It’s difficult, to be honest. I think he knows it’s his job… my job is to scrum and set mauls and his job is to kick to posts,” Kitshoff said at the time.

“So, it’s difficult to just try and boost his confidence, ask him to work a bit harder with Gareth (Wright, kicking coach) … to almost try and sort out and find a solution for his kicking.

“But to actually hammer down onto him is probably not the right call, that might damage his confidence even further.”

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s defence of Libbok’s defence was shorter, but no less impassioned.

“Those things tend to come right,” Kolisi said.

“He’ll get his confidence and he’ll kick very well. There are also other guys in the team who can kick.”

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