Johnny Sexton shows nothing but class when asked about struggling Mannie Libbok 2 months ago

Johnny Sexton shows nothing but class when asked about struggling Mannie Libbok

"It's not rocket science, Sam!"

In the aftermath of Ireland toppling South Africa, in Paris, much of the praise flowing was being directed to Andy Farrell's men. Manie Libbok came up in a lot of the post-match chat, too, with Johnny Sexton getting hooked into the debate.


Libbok missed a conversion and penalty, with Faf de Klerk missing two long-range penalties, in the 13-8 Ireland victory. All told, the Springboks left 11 points out there, and may now finish second in Pool B.

"Three points are enormous at Test level," reflected former Wales captain Sam Warburton on ITV.

"It's massive... It's not necessarily on Libbok. If the coaches want Libbok to play 10 - and he has played at 10 all year for South Africa - then it'd be a massive change to parachute Handrè Pollard in. It completely changes everything they have built over the last eight, nine Test matches... if you want to win a World Cup you need a high percentage - 80 to 90% - goal-kicker."

That was, of course, a valid point but Libbok found backing from an unlikely source, after the game - the Ireland captain.


Johnny Sexton Johnny Sexton (left) and Manie Libbok. (Credit: World Rugby & Getty)

Johnny Sexton backs Manie Libbok


To his eternal credit, Manie Libbok stepped up for an ITV interview after his side's five-point loss to Ireland. He was asked about those missed kicks at goal, and replied:

"Obviously in a tight game like this, we have to take our points... we have to convert. Unfortunately for us, we did not get this right. For us, we have to go back, on Monday, to the drawing board."

Not far away, at Stade de France, Johnny Sexton was asked for his take on the kicking woes experienced by Libbok.

In that moment, with most of the focus on the performance of this Ireland team, the 38-year-old put that to one side to give his backing to the South African.


"Manie did some amazing things, like setting up the [Cheslin Kolbe] try," Sexton said.

"He's a handful with the ball and he has an array of tricks, but every kicker goes through a stage in their career. I had a similar one in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It's tough, but you get stronger off the back of that and when you do come out of the other side, you indeed become a better kicker.

"I don't think there's a kicker in the world that hasn't gone through that period. He's an outstanding player and gives them a different dimension."

Springbok centre Jesse Kriel was also asked about Libbok, and told News 24, "We move on to the next thing. If I miss a tackle, it's exactly the same as missing a kick.

"We move on to the next job and we cover each other. It's never about the individual, it's about the team. I don't think it took energy away from us because our energy will ball in hand and on the other side of the ball was great."

"Listen, it has been a problem for the past two and a half years," reflected Springbok legend Bryan Habana on ITV. "Handrè Pollard has come back in (the squad), Faf de Klerk has taken on a big responsibility [kicking]... you definitely can't win a World Cup like that. We were definitely found wanting there."



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