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Horses for courses … Should the Springboks make a flyhalf switch for Rugby World Cup semi-final?

Manie Libbok kneels during training

Manie Libbok might be the better option to close out the semi-final against England on Saturday. Photo: Steve Haag Sports via BackpagePix

Published Oct 18, 2023


It will not surprise if the Springboks are considering a flyhalf switch-up for Saturday's Rugby World Cup semi-final in Paris against the old foe England.

The discourse among Springbok supporters had focused on Manie Libbok versus Handre Pollard when the latter was brought into the squad earlier this month.

Now, it's only a question of how both can be used together to give the Boks the best chance of winning matches and eventually the trophy.

Their combination worked perfectly this past weekend as the reigning world champions edged out France 29-28 after a 50m-plus Pollard penalty gave the Springboks the lead.

But it was Libbok's speed in the backline, his vision on the attack and accurate box kicks that sparked the running rugby with which South Africa countered the dangerous French side magnificently.

Tomorrow's team announcement will show exactly how the Boks plan to take England apart and which one of Libbok and Pollard start will be vital in the gameplan.

Maybe it's time for Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and his selectors to switch things up and bring the steady Pollard in to start this crunch clash and have the mercurial Libbok on the bench to close out the game.

Off the kicking tee, Pollard played a massive role in the outcome of the 2019 final, nailing four penalties before half-time to build up a lead laid that the perfect platform for scoreboard pressure to get to England. And once they started chasing the game, that's when things started opening up and the Springbok wingers could pounce as the English fell apart.

So that's where Libbok joins the fray, with a points cushion that allows him to be at his destructive best.

The tactic of starting with a fast-paced game against France worked perfectly, and the English will definitely study the quarter-final clash to figure out how to counter that.

And there is no way that England will follow in France’s footsteps and try to speed up the game right at the start.

They are not a team made for that type of rugby.

They play boring rugby and will definitely depend more on their forwards to get them going and try and force penalties for kickable points.

England captain and flyhalf Owen Farrell kicked 20 points, including five penalties and a drop goal, against Fiji in the quarters.

They had to play slow to avoid Fiji running rampant in classical Pacific Island style.

And that is exactly what they will try and do to slow down the Boks. Whether they will succeed, though, is another question.

So, why not swing things around and have Pollard dictate what happens in the opening half of the match and flip the script with Libbok's introduction when the game is open and England has tired legs all around the park?

Imagine the chaos the Bok attack could create when Libbok is set free with the likes of Manu Tuilagi and company out on their feet ...

Should Pollard start and be able to build that buffer for his side, there's no reason why Libbok can’t twist the dagger.

And it will also settle the flyhalf debate once and for all if the Springboks can prove that whoever they select for a gameplan on a certain day can fulfil the role and the other flyhalf can come on and close the game out.

Pollard did that well against France. Maybe, just maybe it's time for Libbok to do it versus England.