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11th Sep 2023

Siya Kolisi inspires press conference cheers as he addresses biggest Springbok weakness

Patrick McCarry

Siya Kolisi

“Not if he wins man of the match!”

South Africa overcame their Pool B rivals, Scotland in their World Cup opener, with captain Siya Kolisi coming forward with a passionate defence of a teammate that actually finished as Man of the Match.

Outhalf Mani Libbok ran the Springbok backline superbly and set up Kurt Lee Arendse with a stunning no-look, crossfield kick that flummoxed the Scots entirely. The Stormers 10 did miss two from five kicks, off the tee, and was relieved of those duties as the match progressed.

Siya Kolisi

Siya Kolisi defends Manie Libbok

Despite his poor form off the kicking tee, an issue that has dogged him for years, Manie Libbok was named Man of the Match. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk ended up taking over as goal-kicker, on the occasion of his 50th Test cap.

While Libbok’s open-field play is a huge positive, his goal-kicking worries are currently the biggest weakness for a Springbok side looking in otherwise good shape to defend their world title.

During South Africa’s victorious post-match press briefing, South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber was asked by a reporter if he was worried about the kicking of Libbok. “If he wins man of the match, no,” the former Munster coach remarked.

Two minutes, and two Q&A interactions, later, Siya Kolisi spoke up and defended Libbok. “Sorry Jacques,” he cut in, “just on that Manie question, on the kicking. From a players’ point of view, this question gets asked quite a lot when he misses kicks.

“We play as a team. Sometimes you’re not good at one thing, on the day, but the way he attacked, the way he took control of the team, how he’s a general amongst us.

“People forget that and they remember what he didn’t do. Faf can kick, Cheslin (Kolbe) can kick, there are a lot of guys we can call upon. So, when someone is lacking somewhere, somebody else takes over.

“It’s the same as me. Sometimes I don’t know what to call in the game, so Duane (Vermeulen) will call, Eben (Etzebeth) will call or Manie makes a call.

“He’s not going to be good at everything every single day. You can’t have everything on the day, that’s why we work together. We don’t stress about it.

“It’s the same as a throw. If you throw it not straight, you don’t do it intentionally. We’re working as a group, we work together and he has confidence in us. If Faf has to kick, nobody stresses, we move on.”

That response, as Siya Kolisi ended by saying ‘thank you’, drew some loud cheers from the back of the press conference room.

“Oh,” Kolisi remarked. “Amigo!”

South Africa next face Romania, on Sunday, before gearing up to take on Ireland, in Paris, on Saturday, September 23.


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