Red-hot Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok aims to light up cold Paris

Flyhalf Manie Libbok will earn his 50th Stormers cap in Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Stade Francais. Picture: Phando Jikelo / Independent Newspapers

Flyhalf Manie Libbok will earn his 50th Stormers cap in Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Stade Francais. Picture: Phando Jikelo / Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 17, 2024


Manie Libbok is a serial winner. Rugby World Cup: tick. United Rugby Championship: tick. So, how about the Champions Cup this season?

The Stormers playmaker will be going all out to help the Capetonians take a significant step forward in their quest for the top club title around the world in Saturday’s clash against Stade Francais in Paris (7.30pm kick-off).

If John Dobson’s team emerge victorious in the French capital, they could finish second in Pool 2 behind Leinster, who take on Leicester in England on Saturday as well.

Libbok seems to have an affinity for France, having made his Springbok debut in Marseille in November 2022, and then starting in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final and semi-final in Paris against the French and England.

While he missed out on the matchday 23 for the final against the All Blacks, he enjoyed the occasion as the Boks clinched their fourth Webb Ellis Cup in a 12-11 triumph in October.

The 26-year-old flyhalf has made significant strides in his game over the last few years in Cape Town, but is eager to help the Stormers make a statement on Saturday that they can be successful in Europe – having last won up north in January last year against London Irish.

Their record since has resulted in seven defeats and a 22-22 draw against a weakened Leinster side, so they need to showcase their growth as a team against Stade Francais to prove that they can go further than their Champions Cup quarter-final berth from last season.

And the man to spearhead that mission will be Libbok, who will earn his 50th Stormers cap.

“It’s awesome to play my 50th this week. It will be amazing, and hopefully it will be an amazing night,” the Bok pivot said yesterday.

“It’s important for myself individually to grow. I always want to learn and get better, work on my game, identify areas in my game where I can be better going forward.

“As a group as well, the growth over the past few years is amazing. I am just stoked for the guys who want to do better and learn.

“This weekend is going to be a good test for us in terms of seeing where we are at in terms of playing abroad and the result.

“It’s definitely going to be nice to be in Paris again. Different stadium (Stade Jean-Bouin instead of Stade de France), but I am just looking forward to being back there again playing a quality side like Stade Francais.

“Ending in the quarter-finals last season, we got a good taste of the level of the Champions Cup, but it was awesome from our side, and this year we want to build on that.

“We want to give our all and go all out. I believe in this group, that we can go all out. But for us, the focus is on week in, week out – the game ahead.

“It will be good for our confidence going forward as well, because in the past few years, we have struggled to get results overseas. If we do the small things right, I think we can get the result this weekend.”

Dobson was pleased with the attacking intent shown in last weekend’s 31-24 win over the Sale Sharks in Cape Town, but will be hoping for better finishing in Paris.

There will also be entirely different conditions in the French capital, with sub-zero temperatures expected on Saturday night.

“At this level, it’s tough teams. We are playing against quality outfits, and we had a difficult December (in terms of) fixtures, and I am just proud of how the guys handled themselves in that period, with all those big and tough games,” Libbok said.

“The guys showed character, and we took a lot of confidence out of those victories. I’m just happy about all the learnings we took out of those games, and that we can take that forward.

“Last year in Clermont, it was minus-four – it was very cold. That experience helps a lot to play in the cold, because it’s a different challenge as we don’t usually play in such weather.

“This time around we just have to embrace the cold and conditions, and go out there and be mentally strong and put our best foot forward.”