Handre Pollard has praised Manie Libbok, who made way for the veteran Springbok flyhalf to play a key role in South Africa’s historic World Cup win in France.
Pollard was a late inclusion in the Bok World Cup squad, but finished the tournament with a perfect kicking success rate for the four-time champions.
Libbok was the only specialist flyhalf initially taken to France by the Boks, and starred with a sensational try-assist with a no-look crossfield kick in the campaign opener against Scotland.
But his goal kicking came under fire in the loss to Ireland and, despite bouncing back when he played off the bench against Tonga, the 14-Test pivot would ultimately miss out on selection for the decider against the All Blacks.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sky Sports, Pollard hailed the role of Libbok, commending the 26-year-old’s humility, dedication, and team-centric approach as well as his dynamic style of play.
“I can’t praise Manie enough for the way he’s playing and handling the pressure,” he told Sky Sports. “He’s a humble guy and works extremely hard, and he works for the team.
“He’s got a lovely dynamic way of playing towards us as a team, that’s a lovely thing and something that we’ve all embraced and enjoyed as well.
“Whatever our roles are for myself or him wherever we play it’s all towards the team and what we can do best for them.”
Reflecting on his call-up to the World Cup squad after Malcolm Marx’s injury, Pollard expressed a selfless mindset, stating his willingness to contribute in any capacity:
“I just thought, listen, whatever I can contribute whether that’s just training and helping the team,” he said. “We’ve got a great culture in terms of that – the guys not playing, staying positive and knowing their role and how they’ve got to contribute and prepare the team for weekends – so I thought initially that was going to be my role, because the team were in a good place.
“I was open to do anything. If they needed me on game day, brilliant. If not, I had a different role to play. So that was my mindset going in.”
As a double World Cup winner, Pollard underscored the uniqueness of the latest triumph, emphasising the challenging route and formidable opponents faced by the Springboks.
“What makes this one special is the route we had to take, the teams we had to play against.
“We played against the top five teams in the world in order to win the World Cup. It’s unbelievable, and especially the quarter-final, semi-final, final.
“The one point is… Winning one of those Test matches in that manner is unbelievable and the emotional toll it takes on you, and the place you have to go to, to win those games.. And to do that three weeks in a row? That was unbelievable.”
Looking ahead, Pollard shared his thoughts on returning to Premiership outfit Leicester Tigers after the World Cup victory, acknowledging the need for time to transition from the highs of international success to refocusing on club commitments.
“Of course, it’s great to be back at Leicester now, I think that’s going to help a lot with just sort of getting over it [the high of the World Cup],” the 29-year-old added.
“As awesome as it is and amazing as it is, life goes on and you’ve got to get cracking again with the club, so it’s great to be back here.”
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images