- The Stormers are hoping that the arrival of flyhalf Manie Libbok gives them a different dimension on attack.
- Libbok joins from the Sharks and he is likely to be given the No 10 jersey immediately.
- Stormers coach John Dobson denies he was ever interested in signing Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch.
If there was one position where the Stormers needed added depth before the United Rugby Championship, it was surely flyhalf.
That injection came in the form of Manie Libbok on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old joins from the Sharks, where he was comfortably behind Curwin Bosch in the No 10 pecking order, and he now has a new beginning in Cape Town.
In truth, flyhalf has been one of the most problematic positions for the Stormers for years now. It is not that the talent has not been there – names like Damian Willemse immediately stand out – but more that consistency in performance, selection and availability has been challenging to find.
With Kade Wolhuter still out injured, the playmaking responsibilities fell squarely on the largely dependable Tim Swiel for the recently completed Currie Cup.
The former Harlequins and Newcastle Falcons pivot certainly did a job for coach John Dobson during some rather desperate times, but Libbok’s arrival now gives the Stormers something different.
Where Swiel is safe, Libbok is unpredictable and, with that, comes an x-factor that can break games open.
“I think the most important thing for Manie is to play rugby, as obvious as it sounds,” Dobson said on Thursday.
“There were rumours earlier this year that we were after Curwin (Bosch), but that was never the case. We were really interested in Manie.
“We’ve made a strategic decision to evolve our attacking game, so having him settle in at No 10 and attacking is really important for us.
“Just at training this week, we’ve seen what he’s brought, and we’re really excited.
“I think the team that runs out next Saturday, as proud as I was of the performance towards the back end of the Currie Cup, is going to bring another level in terms of our attacking game, and Manie will be one of the drivers of that.”
Dobson also revealed his eagerness to see Libbok reunited with fullback Warrick Gelant with the pair having played together at the Bulls.
“We did a lot of research before we got Manie, and there was a game when John Mitchell was coach of the Bulls – I think it was against the Hurricanes at Loftus – and Warrick and Manie played together and just absolutely fed off each other,” said Dobson.
“It was uncanny.
“He’s here as an attacking flyhalf … that’s his job for us.
“If you look at the game at the moment with two first receivers … (Beauden) Barrett and (Richie) Mo’unga, (Wilie) Le Roux and (Handre) Pollard … with Gelant and Libbok, you will have to defend well.
“We want to create as many opportunities for him as we can.”
The Stormers get their URC campaign under way with a clash against Benneton on 25 September.
Stormers touring squad:
Forwards: Justin Basson, Dian Bleuler, Kwenzo Blose,
Willie Engelbrecht, Neethling Fouche, Deon Fourie, Brok Harris, JJ
Kotze, Leon Lyons, Salmaan Moerat (co-captain), Scarra Ntubeni, Junior
Pokomela, Evan Roos, Sazi Sandi, Adre Smith, Marcel Theunissen, Ernst
van Rhyn (co-captain), Andre-Hugo Venter, Nama Xaba
de Jongh, Paul de Wet, Dan du Plessis, Warrick Gelant, Tristan Leyds,
Manie Libbok, Godlen Masimla, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen, Rikus
Pretorius, Tim Swiel, Stefan Ungerer, Edwill van der Merwe, Leolin Zas
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