URC play-offs: Glasgow v Stormers: Warriors wary of Manie Libbok threat

Assistant coach Nigel Carolan says patience will be key to progressing to last four

Glasgow Warriors must not give Stormers stand-off Manie Libbok time and space to work his magic on Saturday night, says assistant coach Nigel Carolan. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Glasgow Warriors must not give Stormers stand-off Manie Libbok time and space to work his magic on Saturday night, says assistant coach Nigel Carolan. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GLASGOW WARRIORS assistant coach Nigel Carolan believes that neutralising the threat posed by Stormers playmaker Manie Libbok will be key to his team coming out in top Saturday night’s URC play-off quarter-final clash at Scotstoun.

The Scottish side have home advantage thanks to being fourth in the URC table at the end of the regular season, one place higher than their South African opponents, and Franco Smith‘s side have come out on top in the two previous meeting between these sides at Scotstoun  –  winning 20-9 last November (when Libbock was rested) and 24-17 in January 2023 – but knock-out rugby is a whole different ballgame to mid-season matches.

Stormers have done rather well in the play-offs since joining the league, finishing as champions in 2022 (their inaugural season in the competition) and runners-up in 2023. In contrast, Warriors were walloped 76-14 by Leinster at the quarter-final stage in 2022, and were beaten 5-14 at home by Munster at the same point last season.


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“They [Stormers] were beaten finalists last year but Munster had to do it the hard way,” said Carolan. “Munster brought their A game to Cape Town last year and I think that’s going to be important for us, that we bring our A game and we don’t go away from what’s worked for us.

“Stormers are an extremely physical team but they’ve also got massive x-factor and one of the best 10s in the business in Manie Libbok. I think if you can quieten him and get him off his game they don’t function as well and it’s going to be important we make his presence felt in Scotstoun, make sure there’s plenty heat on him, both sides of the ball.

“He’s a magician and if you can take some of that flair and magic away you can make them ordinary enough,” reiterated Carolan.

“We’ve got a few guys in our own squad here who were talking about it this morning and how they can make his life a little bit more uncomfortable.

“Not all our plays need to go out the back, some of them can target his channel as well. Even if he moves  – sometimes you can hide players like that – but we can seek him out.

“It’s not all about him. We’re trying to focus on the things that work well for us and not necessarily just going after one guy. You can lose your focus if you focus too much on the opposition and less on what you do, so we’ve got to focus on things that have got us to the knockout stage and make sure we bring an excellent version of them.”

The one recent knock-out series Warriors did enjoy some success in was last year’s Challenge Cup, although a flat performance when going down 19-43 to Toulon in the final means doubts persist about this side’s big match mentality.

The fact that their form in recent weeks has dropped off from the razor-sharp standards of earlier in the season is also a cause for concern.

“The trip to South Africa and in that Zebre game [last weekend], I think we stumbled a little bit which created frustration,” acknowledged Carolan. “Our game and ability to create opportunities is still there, but it is frustrating that the unforced errors the other night were probably double what we would normally accept as a minimum standard.

“But we’ve also looked at the key attack stats across the course of the season and we’re top three in the URC in most of the ones we see as important to our own identity, in terms of line-breaks, tackle-breaks, metres-gained, offloads and so on – the things that we want to see in a Glasgow Warriors team, moving the ball around and playing to space

“So we’re certainly not going to panic at this stage. With a quarter-final and the Stormers coming to town, you don’t need anything more than that to channel your focus again.”

 

 

“What comes up from that Toulon game in the Challenge Cup is that we felt we didn’t fire a shot,” he added. “Certain aspects of our game didn’t function as well as we would have liked. The set-piece was one area we felt we could have been better but it was just errors. And we felt we didn’t play enough until the game had gone beyond us.

“We need to be really true to our DNA and what’s got us here and not get bogged down in frustration when things don’t go your way.

“It’s very much a mindset. It’s about being calm and composed in every situation. I think it’s  a mindset as opposed to a physical or technical thing – just staying calm, staying relaxed, staying in the moment, hold your feet and you’ll see some good pictures. And just look after the ball.”

Warriors will be without Stafford McDowall again this week, as well as longer-term absentees Sione Vailanu, JP du Preez and Ollie Smith, but apart from that Carolan was able to report a clean bill of health for the squad.

“Stafford hasn’t reintegrated into training yet. The recovery from that infection in his hand has been slower than we first anticipated. He’s got all the heavy bandaging off it now but this weekend could be a little but tight for him.

“Steyno [Kyle Steyn] is back training [after in infection to a cut on his knee] and George Turner is back training as well [after a fractured foot], so its good to have those guys putting their hand up for selection.

Max Williamson has passed all his HIA stuff so he is back training as well.

“We’re not far off having a full-deck again now that we have Richie Gray, Huw Jones and all those guys who were longer term injuries back with us as well. It just adds to the competition we have in the squad and the challenge is to build them back into the team without losing cohesion.”


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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

4 Comments

  1. Here we go again. We’re going to do X, Y and Z. Same every time for Scottish teams, players, managers, coaches. IF that is our plan – how about not talking about it in advance and both winding up the opposition and nullifying any element of suprise; if it’s not our plan, then it’s just hot air and us talking without justification how we’re going to win. Honestly, I know they have to fill column inches, but I’d rather we focus on how we’re setting our team up rather than giving the opposition dressing room talking points. Or just say nothing at all and let, for once, our talking be done on the pitch. This is all so wearisome after years of failing in crunch games by every scottish team. Sorry to sound so negative, but I’m just over it at this point – change the culture and mindset, get some knockout/championship wins on the board at the business end of the season, then I’ll listen to this type of stuff in future.

    • Couldn’t agree more – needs the SRU press machine to calm it, and not releasing articles such as this to justify their existence….

  2. I feel we’ve really missed big Sione V in the back end of the season both as a carrier and also a decoy in midfield, was hoping for some positive news on him but it seems not to be. Looking forward to another great game vs Stormers if last two encounters at Scotstoun are a measure

  3. I cant help but think that home advantage and the weather may just see Glasgow over the line this time. I also believe we’ll see a bit of a reaction in training this week to all those handling errors.

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