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Monday, April 22, 2024

Manie Libbok didn’t let the Black South Easter blow away Stormers chances against Connacht

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Cape Town – The Black South Easter made life difficult for Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok and his teammates in their win over Connacht on Saturday, but the cool-and-calm pivot managed to set the sails in the right direction to ride the win to the final of the United Rugby Championship.

Libbok contributed 23 points, which included two excellent tries and an almost flawless kicking performance off the tee, to steer his team to a 43-25 win over their Irish visitors in the DHL Stadium. And after Munster’s last-gasp drop goal win over Leinster in the second semi, the defending URC champions will host a second successive final in two weeks.

The Stormers will then hope that the unruly wind has died down considerably after it caused conditions that could’ve uprooted their plans to defend their trophy successfully.

Luckily, their ace flyhalf, with his fellow backs and a hard-hitting pack of forwards, dealt with the wind better than their opponents to secure the victory.

Libbok, who picked up Man of the Match for the second weekend in a row, said Saturday was difficult conditions to play in.

“Obviously it was very tough, we never got a solid strike on the ball,” Libbok said of the wind especially when kicking.

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“The ball was always moving. The wind was swinging this way and when it goes (after a kick) it swings the other way. It was really tough.”

Despite a few early game nerves, Libbok and his fellow backs soon found their way into the game and created the magic they are known for, scoring six trademark Stormers’ tries in testing conditions.

Two Libbok crossfield kicks created the first score for winger Angelo Davids, who had a brilliant game. Libbok first put a dink over to the left-hand touch as his team regathered to power into the Connacht 22m area. Then the mercurial flyhalf put the ball to boot again to find Davids out wide for the first score.

The winger also created a try for Libbok where he powered through Connacht’s defence before offloading to his flyhalf who ran over untouched.

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“Angelo made that try,” Libbok said.

“He did all the hard work, and I just had to finish it off.”

For his other try, Libbok slipped through the Irish club’s defensive line to spark a counter for his team. He says that’s the mismatches they constantly look for on the attack.

“We know some of the teams are ball-in-hand teams, but after a couple of phases, they will kick. And once the kick comes, we must be able to handle it.

“When we deal with it, we can hurt them on the transition, because you will have mismatches. Tighties (forwards) want to be on the edge and in the middle. Most of their backs will go to the other side.

“So on the one side, you will run against forwards, and that’s what happened.”

According to Libbok, they will not stray from this type of rugby – even if the conditions do not always allow it.

They had the wind to deal with, but their game plan allow them to play from anywhere on the field. Connacht found that out the hard way as two brilliant tries at the death took any hopes of a victory away.

“When we are unpredictable, that’s when we are very dangerous.”

@LeightonK

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