Saturday, December 04, 2010
This weeks frozen weather couldnt prevent a star-studded Barbarians side running red hot earlier today, putting four tries past current world champions South Africa to win 26-20 at Twickenham.
It was a fine way to celebrate 120 years of Baa-Baas rugby, and the skill and ability of this Barbarians team gave thrilling reassurance to one of rugbys most historic and treasured traditions.
Tries from James OConnor, Quinton Geldenhuys and two from Drew Mitchell proved to be the difference between the sides, although South Africa scored three tries themselves through Odwa Ndungane, Bakkies Botha and Bandise Maku.
The Springboks had only retained three of the line-up that beat England last Saturday and had no answer to Mitchell or man-of-the-match countryman Anton van Zyl, who was dominant in the lineout and contributed well in the loose.
The Barbarians certainly lived up to their name in the early quarters of the game, providing some entrepreneurial running rugby to warm the 30 000 fans, with a fantastic kick-through from James OConnor to give Mitchell his second score a particular highlight.
Mitchell barged over from close range for his first try before OConnor scored and converted his own. But when a forced pass from Nonu was intercepted by Springbok wing Ndungane early in the second half, South Africa were handed a lifeline back into the game.
There were further scores from Geldenhuys for the Barbarians and Botha and Maku for the South Africans but the result was never in doubt.
Barbarians head coach Nick Mallett, who coached South Africa from 1997 to 2000, said he relished the victory: "The first 30 minutes was some of the best rugby I've seen in the November Tests. We cut South Africa to pieces in the first half-hour and left a couple more tries out there.
"We got some great ball in the first half but then South Africa put us under pressure in the second. It's a strange feeling when you hear the national anthem of the team you've coached but I take my hat off to these guys."
South Africa coach Peter De Villiers did find positives in his sides defeat: "We lost the game but we won a lot in other respects. It wasn't a Test match but it was a test to see how good we really are with our youngsters and our depth.
"Everybody wanted to show what they could do and the team didn't perform as a unit. But we talked at half-time and they pulled it together. Our youngsters did very well."
Barbarian captain Matt Giteau highlighted the significance of his sides triumph as a firm argument to maintain the longstanding tradition, whose place in the modern game has at times been questioned:
"When a national side gets beaten by an invitation team that's a very important game. It's got huge relevance," he said.