Libbok, who has established himself as the Bok’s first-choice flyhalf this season, has been a key figure for the team, and while he is well aware of the challenge posed by Ireland’s star flyhalf, he says he is looking forward to the contest.
“Johnny is a great player and he’s done amazing things for Ireland over the years,” said Libbok. “On a personal note, I’m preparing as well as I can, and it’s going to be a nice challenge. We are playing the No 1 team in the world, so it’s a massive game for us all.”
Libbok has been a key figure for the DHL Stormers in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and has encountered many of the Irish players. However, he said this match would be a completely different challenge in his first Test against the World No 1’s.
“I’ve played against a few of their players in the URC, but this is different, it’s a Test match, and they’ll be at their best, just as we’d like to be,” he said.
Libbok brushed off the varied opinions about his goal-kicking this season and said: “My whole game will be important. Kicking at posts, out of hand and my whole game in general. I’ve been working hard on my basic skills and I’m putting a lot of work into getting everything right.”
Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe was also excited about the match and said it would be an epic match.
“Personally, it is a massive opportunity and privilege to be here, and I’m delighted to get the opportunity to represent my country. I just want to go out there and enjoy the occasion,” said Kolbe. “We’ve been working hard and we know what we need to do this weekend.”
When quizzed about the difference between this Springbok team and the triumphant 2019 side, Kolbe said: “That was four years ago, and a lot has happened since then. The team has also evolved in a positive way during that time.”
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber opted for a seven-one split in favour of the forwards in this encounter, and while it may have excited comment in the rugby world, Kolbe says the players have bought into the plan for the match 100%.
“We respect the coaches and their decisions, and whoever takes the field will go out there and give their best,” he said. “The main thing for us is to focus on the game and not be distracted by what people say.”
He added: “We know there’s a risk involved as well, but we are fortunate to have players who can play various positions. As players we back one another, and we all know we need to be as mentally and as physically prepared as we can be.”
The Springboks will have a double training session on Wednesday in preparation for the match and will have Thursday off to taper and prepare mentally for Saturday.