Manie Libbok slots late conversion as Stormers seal dramatic Champions Cup win against La Rochelle

Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers is tackled by Levani Botia of La Rochelle during their Champions Cup match ar Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers is tackled by Levani Botia of La Rochelle during their Champions Cup match ar Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Dec 16, 2023


Manie Libbok has got ice in his veins and anyone who doubts that, should go look at his match-winning conversion on Saturday that sealed a 21-20 win for the Stormers over reigning champions La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup.

Libbok, spurred on by the now iconic Stormers Faithful chants of his name "Manie, Manie, Manie," was cool under pressure from the kicking tee to hand his side a famous victory. It was another one-point victory for a South African team over a French side.

That conversion came thanks to a strong maul try by Andre-Hugo Venter after Libbok squandered a pass just seconds earlier to put winger Leolin Zas in the corner for a possible try.

Luckily for Libbok, the Stormers played on a penalty advantage and he could kick the ball into the corner for the lineout. From there the forwards did their thing with a massive shove as Venter went over.

The Springbok flyhalf sealed the kick from the difficult angle off his right boot and when he looked up, his teammates were there to congratulate him.

Before the Venter try, La Rochelle looked to have sealed the game but the try at 27-14 was cancelled out just as the Stormers were about to kick off.

The TMO spotted a high tackle, and Joel Sclavi received a yellow card, and the converted try was struck off the record.

It was a last chance from that penalty and Libbok sweetly kicked it deep into the corner for his side to attack from.

But things didn't always go smoothly in the game for the home side. They struggled, especially on the attack, and plenty of passes went astray with players taking the wrong option as well.

The clutch win will overshadow the shortcomings in this game, but if they want to keep on this track in terms of getting victories, the backs will have to improve on their syncing.

And the forwards will have to sharpen up their breakdown play to give cleaner possession to the backline.

La Rochelle attacked the Cape side at the tackling area and disrupted them plenty of times. And the reigning champions were quick off the line and made some brilliant momentum-stopping tackles on the Stormers.

When the Capetonians are on song with their running game, it takes a very good team to stop them. But it will take some time for them to hit their straps to complete every magic offload they want to make when there is some space to attack.

When things did come together, they had some brilliant runs that can only bode well for the rest of the season.

Take that kick-pass by fullback Damian Willemse in the second half to bring up a beautiful try for Englishman Ben Loader. The winger waited on the far side of the field as Willemse got the ball under pressure and still snuck the kick away.

Loader soared highest and managed to pluck the ball out of the sky and evade the cover defence to go in and score.

Other winger Leolin Zas had a brilliant run down the touchline in the first half after some good handling skills by the home side's backs, but scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was hauled in before the try line and spilt the ball in the tackle.

For the Loader try, the Stormers showed the necessary patience on the attack and kept La Rochelle pinned in their half with some good carries, and penalties won.

Defensively there were also some shortcomings, but for most of the game, the Stormers scrambled well to keep their opponents out. Former Stormer Dillyn Leyds caused some problems on the attack, and the try of Tawera Kerr-Barlow, where the home defence was caught napping, showed they must still improve.

The win at home, despite being on the receiving end of referee Christophe Ridley's whistle countless times, is one they will take against the champions, and it will provide much-needed momentum ahead of the Bulls at DHL Stadium this coming Saturday.


Stormers 21 — Tries: Ben Loader, Andre-Hugo Venter. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalties: Libbok (3).

La Rochelle 20 — Tries: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Yoan Tanga. Conversions: Antoine Hastoyu (2). Penalties: Hastoy (2).

IOL Sport