We had to wait for the slow motion on the giant screens to understand how incredible the gesture was. In the 50th minute of the South Africa-Scotland match (18-3), on September 10 in Marseille, Springbok opener Manie Libbok sent Kurt-Lee Arendse a marvelous kick pass… blindly . The winger took off for the try and the men in green broke away completely after a tight first act.

An action full of class and composure, rarely seen on a rugby field, which earned its author the man of the match trophy. A little smoke and mirrors for the judges perhaps, since his performance throughout the match was nothing exceptional. Libbok notably let eight points slip by missing three out of five attempts against the poles.

No doubt he was somewhat impressed by the event. The native of Humansdorp, a town in the south of the country, west of Port Elizabeth, is playing his first world championship there. “I am honored and grateful to wear this jersey. For me, it’s a dream come true to be able to play in a World Cup, he declared after the match. It’s great that this match went like this. I can gain confidence and move forward.”

It is in this same Vélodrome stadium in Marseille that the number 10 of the Stormers plays his first international minutes, on November 12, 2022 against France. The call-up for the autumn tour then served as a reward for the player, 25 years old at the time and the great architect of the title acquired a few months earlier in the United Rugby Championship by the South African province. Before joining the Stormers where he exploded, Immanuel Libbok, his real name, also played for the Bulls and the Sharks.

Before his start on Sunday against the XV du Chardon, Libbok had only known two others, against Australia and Argentina during the recent Rugby Championship. His presence on the Vélodrome meadow therefore serves as a real bet for Jacques Nienaber, the coach, and Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby. It must be said that no renowned number 10 stood out to take the team to the title, as did Joël Stransky in 1995, Butch James in 2007 and Handré Pollard in 2019. But to everyone’s surprise, the latter, affected calf before the start of the competition, has just been called into the team to compensate for the injury of hooker Malcolm Marx. In the meantime, Pollard has returned to action with his club Leicester and is applying for a place in the team. When ? That’s the whole question.

Facing Ireland this Saturday (9 p.m.), it is up to Manie Libbok, 26 years old and just 10 caps, to establish himself as the conductor of a team with twirling backs and powerful forwards. Knowing he was well surrounded, the person concerned also thanked his forwards for having “put him in a position” to accomplish his incredible gesture against Scotland. And his teammates repay him. Asked about the three failures of his scorer against the poles, captain Siya Kolisi stepped up: “In a match, it happens to not be good in a particular area, but the way he (Libbok) attacked Today, the way he took control of the team, the way he is a general among us, people forget that.

Scottish coach Gregor Townsend described him as “a complete and precise player in his kicking game”. The Stormers opener, once again a URC finalist in 2023, also has a major advantage, that of being able to strike with both feet. If he did not succeed everything against the XV du Chardon, Libbok certainly had fire in his legs. Speed, rapid support, interval shots, his unusual game for a South African number 10 offers a new kind of offensive weapons in the quiver of the reigning world champions. “It helps them to play a more offensive game than during the last World Cup,” confirms Townsend. It’s up to the Irish to watch him closely.