Sharks the perfect fit for Libbok
DURBAN – Manie Libbok is very clear about his reasons for ditching the Bulls for the Sharks after five years in Pretoria.
Time for a change. Time for new scenery, and an opportunity to play in arguably the most exciting backline in the country.
Oh, and there was also some reluctance to play behind veteran Morne Steyn ...
“After Handre Pollard left, I thought it would be my time to shine,” Libbok says.
“But then Morne came back and I found myself back in the queue once more ... That was difficult for me because I thought I had done my time ...”
Libbok, a product of the south western Cape, had joined the Bulls on a junior contract straight after finishing school in George and playing SA Schools in 2015.
After serving his apprenticeship at Loftus Versfeld, he was just starting to get meaningful game time in Super Rugby when Steyn returned from France.
“When I saw how things were working out for me, I felt it was time for a change, and at that time the Sharks were setting Super Rugby alight with their counter-attacking game, and I wanted to be part of it,” the 23-year-old says.
Libbok took advantage of the 21-day “get out of jail free card" offered by SA Rugby at the peak of lockdown and extricated himself from his contract at the Bulls while sounding out the Sharks.
The answer from Durban was an emphatic yes.
“(Sharks coach) Sean Everitt phoned me and was very positive about the move,” Libbok said.
“He told me he wanted players with the initiative to make decisions in the heat of the moment ... to play what is in front of them - to decide in an instant whether to get the ball wide, to attack space or to go to the space at the back.
“That is exactly how I like to play, and adaptability is where the game is going,” Libbok added. “Also, it was clear that the Sharks have a warm team culture and are loving what they do, and that excited me.”
Everitt has said that he will use Libbok both as a flyhalf and a fullback - Curwin Bosch and Aphelele Fassi respectively cannot start every game.
And Libbok does not feel that he is once more going to be lean on game time.
“I train with the Sharks as a flyhalf but they know that I am also at home at fullback, and coach Sean knows that I am available for wherever he needs me to play,” he says.
“A significant thing about the way the Sharks play is that the fullback is not confined to that role. There won’t be that much difference between flyhalf and fullback because I will often be first receiver ... If Curwin is at 10, we will have a flyhalf either side of the ruck. I will be the first receiver a lot and not just stuck at 15.”
Libbok says he and Bosch know each other very well from having played in a number of national age group teams together, and they will happily push each other.
“It will be healthy competition between us because we are similar players,” he says. “He will take his game to the next level, and so will I. We will learn a lot from each other and grow together into better players.”