Can Manie manage the pressure? 

By Lucky Maree

ON THE BALL: The man who left the Bulls to go to the Sharks in 2020 doesn’t exist anymore. That insecure, hot-and-cold rugby player who fell apart as often as he scored the winning points is gone, writes Lucky Maree. 

At Western Province, Manie Libbok has absorbed the punches and come out slugging. Working with John Dobson, he has overcome all the obstacles that the unforgiving game of rugby has thrown in his path.

Rugby is a team sport. No matter how good, an individual player can’t win a game by himself – but an individual player can lose a match.

That is the sword that will be hanging over the head of Manie Libbok until Saturday when the Stormers face Munster in the final of the United Rugby Championship.

And just in case anybody’s forgotten, there will be 15 Munster players on the field, all committed to making life as difficult for him as possible. 

If all of South Africa knows how important it is for Libbok to have a great game, all of Ireland knows how important it is to stop him. Munster will have studied, in great detail, every minute of his brilliant performance against Connacht last Saturday and they will have made plans accordingly. They will not allow Libbok to do as he pleases.

A great deal of the play by the Stormers will be about giving Libbok the space, that extra yard that makes all the difference. Fortunately for the flyhalf, he will have loose forwards like Deon Fourie, Hacjivah Dayimani and Evan Roos to create that space and tight forwards who (literally) don’t stand back for any other team in the world.

During the week, Cape Town and the rest of South Africa, handed him instant legendary status. 

If the fans are to be believed Libbok was alone on the field and, like a Rambo wiping out the enemy, he took on the Connacht team and beat them all by himself.  

Jim Clark, one of the greatest of all Formula One World Champions, said: “It is important to ignore what the newspapers say about you.” 

And he was speaking as long ago as 1965 about the media pressure caused by hero-worshipping. And, compared to today, in those days there was almost no media hype.

Adulation is a double-edged sword. It can give a player confidence, but it can be the source of great self-doubt. The pressure is on to do it again.

“Can I repeat the performance?” is a question that great sports stars have to answer. Some, like Tiger Woods, do it successfully, some appear to be “one-hit-wonders”. 

But even the most sceptical of observers have to admit: so far Libbok has done what has been asked of him – and more.

If the Stormers are to win the United Rugby Championship this Saturday, he will have to do it one more time.

Pictured above: Manie Libbok

Image source: Twitter


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