Barbarians cut a dash but callow South Africa gain little from Wembley draw


www.theguardian.com

obbie Deans, the Barbarians coach, argued that South Africa would have had “no chance” against England this weekend without the “hit-out” provided by this match at Wembley. Certainly, every minute that international teams can spend together is precious, and minutes on the pitch all the more so. But, if South Africa stood no chance before, their prospects can hardly have been transformed by this curious, if entertaining, version of international rugby.
The way a young, unfamiliar side stayed in the match and recovered from a 12-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining to snatch a draw against an even more unfamiliar collection of Kiwis, South Africans and one runaway beast of an Aussie might have forged some esprit de corps. If anything, though, South Africa seemed to consider the result a failure.
“A draw is better than a loss,” said Francois Venter, the young centre who was vital to the Springboks’ comeback. “We did finish strongly, which is a positive. But still when you put on the Springbok jersey you are expected to win. That’s why we are disappointed”
Perhaps that unforgiving assessment is itself a positive, because to the rest of us they looked completely outplayed by a side very obviously intent on having a good time, and not troubling themselves with anything so trifling as, for example, a set piece. In truth, this match had next to no relevance for Saturday’s showdown at Twickenham — and surely precious little benefit. No more than six of South Africa’s XV here are likely to start against England. If niggles to JP Pietersen and Willie le Roux clear up, it could be fewer than that. And, as concepts in the rugby universe, the Barbarians bear absolutely no relation whatsoever to England.
If the set piece is a rugby team’s foundation, this Barbarians outfit was built on quicksand, but such is the talent they managed to improvise and smash their way to five tries and 31 points, which against an international team of South Africa’s standing, whatever the personnel, is astonishing. Taqele Naiyaravoro was that runaway Aussie, all 6ft 5in and 20st of him on the wing, but he was just one of a band of happy swashbucklers whose running skills were far too potent for South Africa to handle. Were it not for the Barbarians’ lack of a functioning set piece, the Springboks would have been staring at another humiliation to rank with their previous outing against the All Blacks.
Deans whipped his team into something resembling a shape in less than a week and was joined in the enterprise by Will Greenwood, once the creative messiah of the England midfield, whose have-boots-will-travel outlook on life dovetails so sweetly with the Barbarians’. Deans, though, is adamant that Greenwood could and should bring his talents to bear on teams rather higher up the food chain than his other project, local club Maidenhead. Andy Ellis, too, the Barbarians captain, spoke glowingly of Greenwood’s enthusiasm and insight.
Whether Greenwood wants the stress of life at the highest level remains to be seen, but he is in his element with the Barbarians, where he can experiment freely in the manner of his mentor Brian Ashton. “I was in Royston a couple of weeks ago, I was in Wimborne. If someone rings up and says come and do a session and have a bit of fun, I will come.”
Eddie Jones has been one such recently. Greenwood has spent time with England, but they might not be ready yet for full exposure to his maverick approach. The quest to beat South Africa for the first time in 10 years will be based more on set piece and defence than the Barbarian way. Nevertheless, Greenwood is as perplexed as anyone by England’s failure to beat the Springboks for so long.
“There was that period when it was just turmoil. There was that lack of consistency in coaching and selection. That is what South Africa have at the moment. But they have unearthed some monsters. It is just going to take a bit of time for them to build.”
A win at Twickenham would accelerate that process, but this runaround at Wembley was little more than superfluous.
Barbarians Nanai; Faddes (Morahan, 52), Tamanivalu, Buckman, Naiyaravoro; Du Preez (Mo’unga, 52), Ellis (capt); Goodes (S van der Merwe, 57), A Van der Merwe, Ryan (Smith, 52), Muller (Carter, 52), Fatialofa, Shields, Taufua (Ackerman, 76), Whitelock
Tries Nani, Ellis, Nayaravoro, Morahan 2 Cons Du Preez, Mo’unga 2
South Africa Kriel (Combrinck, h-t); Petersen, Venter, Van Rensburg, Ulengo; Lambie (capt), Paige (Van Zyl, 69); Mtawarira, Marx (Mbonambi, 52), Adriaanse (Nyakane, 60), Snyman, Du Toit (Etzebeth, 52), Smit (Du Preez, 52), Mohoje, Carr
Tries Du Toit, Smith, Petersen, Venter, Van Rensburg Cons Lambie 3
Referee Mike Fraser (New Zealand) Att 46,646

Barbarians cut a dash but callow South Africa gain little from Wembley draw Barbarians cut a dash but callow South Africa gain little from Wembley draw Reviewed by Usa Tv on November 07, 2016 Rating: 5

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