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South Africa hook Manie Libbok after tough half-hour in World Cup semi-final

The Springboks fly half was hauled off by coach Jacques Nienaber and replaced by Handre Pollard

Harry Latham-Coyle
At Stade de France
Saturday 21 October 2023 21:04 BST
South Africa pulls off great escape to beat England and make Rugby World Cup final

South Africa’s Manie Libbok was substituted just half-an-hour into the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup semi-final after a difficult 30 minutes for the fly half.

Libbok, who had emerged as South Africa’s first-choice ten in the lead-up to this tournament, was hooked after following a sliced clearance kick with a knock-on, capping a disastrous start to the game with England in the ascendancy.

He was replaced by Handre Pollard, a key cog in the 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks side.

Pollard had initially been omitted from Jacques Nienaber’s 33-player squad for this tournament due to concerns over his fitness.

But having returned to action for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Rugby Cup, an injury to hooker Malcolm Marx allowed the fly half to be called in to bolster the playmaking options.

Libbok, who possesses a more creative attacking game, had remained ahead in the pecking order and was backed to start the semi-final.

But with both sides putting boot to ball regularly in a nip-and-tuck contest, head coach Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus made a bold early call.

South Africa's Manie Libbok is replaced against England (PA)

“He’s not entirely responsible,” Bryan Habana said on ITV.

“His kicks have not gone to plan. You feel for a guy putting his body on the line.”

Former England number eight Lawrence Dallaglio added on the decision: “The coach has been ruthless because kicking is such a big part of this game."

Pollard’s extra experience and kicking prowess were deemed likely to be key, with the fly half almost immediately knocking through three points from the tee when England infringed.

The substitution might just have lifted Steve Borthwick’s side, though, seemingly forcing their opponents to stray from their strategy so early in the contest.

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