Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok was calm and collected this week despite facing one of the biggest tests in his career on Saturday when he earns his first start for the Springboks in their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld.
The 25-year-old, who will earn his fourth Test cap in the encounter, did not shy away from the fact that there would be pressure on him in the clash, but said he wanted to go out onto the field and give his best.
“This (starting against Australia) is a big opportunity for me,” said Libbok. “There will be massive pressure on me in this game, but I just want to go out there and contribute in my role as much as possible, and hopefully we can get the desired result.”
As one of the newer faces in the Bok team Libbok had no doubt that Australia would mark him.
“I know they’ll target me, but I’ve made peace with that, and the pressure,” said Libbok. “That said, I’ve taken a lot of confidence from my preparation for this match, and the main thing for me is to control what I can control. I’ll have a few experienced players around me, which is also a bonus.”
After plying his trade at the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks before becoming a regular starter at flyhalf at the DHL Stormers, Libbok admitted it had not always been an easy road to travel, but he said it paved the way for where he is today.
“Looking back at where my career began to where I am now, it wasn’t easy, but I’m grateful for those tough times and to be here (at the Springboks),” said Libbok. “It helped me learn more as a player and develop under different coaches, but it also built character.
“I’ve always wanted to become a Springbok and I knew that in order to achieve that I had to keep my head down and keep working, so I am honoured to have this opportunity to play.”
Libbok added that while it was disappointing for the DHL Stormers to lose in their defence of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship title after going down against Munster in the Grand Final earlier this season, the high-pressure game time was valuable for him personally.
“It was great for me and the team to win the VURC last year, and while we didn’t defend our title this season, I learned a lot during the competition and I appreciate the playing opportunities,” said Libbok. “I tried to improve in every game I played and to grow as a player.”
The Springboks had some well-deserved time off on Thursday to recover from the week’s training, and will wrap up their preparations for the match on Friday with their captain’s run.
Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies kicks off at 17h05 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.