The Springbok fly-half was replaced before half-time in the World Cup semi-final
South Africa hauled fly-half Manie Libbok off the field after just 31 minutes of their semi-final against England, sending on replacement Handre Pollard.
With the score at 9-3 at the Stade de France in Paris, Jacques Nienaber had seen enough and decided to make a crucial change at No 10 for the reigning world champions, with the Springboks brains trust, including director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, clearly not happy with what they had seen.
It was tough to blame the 26-year-old for all of South Africa’s shortcomings as, in particular, the lineout misfired with a couple of bent throws from Bongi Mbonambi and two maul turnovers. However, Libbok failed to control his error-strewn side and ultimately paid the price in a move that was reminiscent of former England head coach Eddie Jones who on multiple occasions hooked players before the break.
Unlike previous games, there was no problem with Libbok’s goal-kicking which has been put under the microscope at this World Cup. Instead, the Springboks – to the ire of many fans on social media – chose to kick to the corner on several occasions in the first half, but to no avail.
Libbok also utilised some left-footed kicks both for touch-finders and clearance kicks but it did not seem a convincing option for a player who has previously been lauded for his ability to kick effectively off both feet, a skill he said he has practised since a young age.
South Africa’s fly-half replacement Pollard only arrived in France as an injury replacement for hooker Malcolm Marx having initially missed out on the squad due to his own fitness concerns.
The Leicester Tigers man was the starting fly-half in this fixture four years ago when South Africa cruised past England 32-12 to lift the World Cup title in Yokohama. However, he had a job on his hands to send them to a second successive World Cup final after Owen Farrell’s boot put England 12-6 to the good on Saturday night in the French capital.