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Manie Libbok enjoys journey from small town to Springboks’ Rugby World Cup winner

Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok speaks during a press conference at the Rugby World Cup

FILE - Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok speaks during a press conference at the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Julien de Rosa/AFP

Published Nov 4, 2023

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The dream of a small boy from Humansdorp to represent his country at the Rugby World Cup came true, and Manie Libbok is grateful to those who assisted him on the way to realising one of his goals as a rugby player.

Libbok, 26, played a pivotal role in the Springboks’ quest to become the first nation to win the Webb Ellis Cup four times and go back-to-back after winning it in 2019 in Japan.

But the triumph in France was made all that more spectacular as the Boks were under pressure to defend their title successfully while missing key players in certain positions.

Libbok held the fort in the absence of 2019 flyhalf Handré Pollard, who joined late in the tournament after recovering from his calf injury that almost saw him miss France 2023 entirely.

“I still can’t describe this feeling, being part of a World Cup winning team... I enjoyed this journey,” Libbok said on Friday.

The Stormers flyhalf and his teammates received a thunderous welcome from the Cape Town supporters when he stepped off the Bok bus in front of City Hall.

Thousands of fans lined the streets of Cape Town’s city centre yesterday, and he was one of the names being chanted loudly, alongside captain Siya Kolisi and another former Stormers player Cheslin Kolbe.

According to Libbok, he is still overjoyed with the win.

“It’s an unreal feeling. I never thought I would be a world champion, but here I am today,” he added.

“I’m grateful to the Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to do this. Coming from my town, the opportunities are few.

“I’m thankful for those people who believed in me, a small boy who had dreams. It’s awesome to be here and to see so many youngsters.

“That is who we play for – to inspire them, so that they can draw hope and belief from this achievement.

“They must just work hard, and if you put your head to it, you can achieve it... it doesn’t matter your circumstances.

“I am very happy to see the fans out here. Cape Town is a place close to my heart, and the faithful always support us as the Stormers and Springboks. We just want to thank them.

“We felt their support throughout the World Cup, and they inspired us.”

Libbok had a massive season as his attacking mindset also gave the Springboks a new dynamic to their game plan.

They have been scoring tries when he is on the field, and have started shifting from a predominantly forward-based game plan to using their back line as an attacking weapon.

Thanks to Libbok’s exploits – like that no-look kick-pass that created a try for wing Kurt-Lee Arendse at the World Cup against Scotland – he was nominated for the Breakthrough Player of the Year title at the World Rugby Awards.

He didn’t win it in the end, but he was happy to be nominated alongside brilliant players from different countries, with All Black wing Mark Tele’a taking the crown.

“It is a special feeling and moment for me. It was an honour being nominated alongside three great upcoming players. Hopefully, their careers will keep going great,” Libbok concluded.

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport