By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
IT WAS A privilege to be at Twickenham today to watch a star-studded Barbarians side beat South Africa…and I only wish there were more people with me.
The crowd of 31,313 was the only disappointing feature of the afternoon as we were treated to a seven-try bonanza, a couple of them out of the top drawer.
The Baa-Baas captain Matt Giteau is a huge fan of the famous club, so before he put on his Speedos and headed for the beach (his words not mine) I sought him out to get his view on why the rugby world should so all it can to protect the famous old clubs
‘The Barbarians are very important to rugby,’ Giteau told me before jumping on a plane back to Australia.
‘It is a week I really look forward to, something that gets me through the November tour.
‘Playing for the Barbarians reminds you why you play rugby. When you go out there you play on instinct back yourself, which I believe is the greatest way to play the game.’
The crowd was definitely hampered by the awful weather that has hit the south of England recently and the fact that England played four Tests in November. But the Barbarians is an institution worth protecting.
But I really hope those who run the Barbarians like the indomitable Mickey Steele-Bodger don’t give up on this great team, but redouble their efforts.
Seeing the number of Welsh shirts in the crowd reminded me of how much the team is loved over the Severn Bridge. So why not play the 2011 instalment of the Barbarians against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium, where they have had some great success selling other games apart from Wales’ key matches.
It would certainly be great to see the Barbarians move around the country. England refuse to move any of their games to the North of the England. Perhaps the Barbarians could be a trailblazer for the game in this as well as cities like Manchester are ready for an injection of international rugby, I believe.
It was freezing here at Twickenham but the match was a cracker and the three Barbarians tries in the first 30 minutes were as good as anything we’d seen in November. Tellingly they were all scored from turnover ball.
I also think it is about time the top English sides settled their differences with the Barbarians and started allowing their places to be selected for the club again. It makes them look very churlish to be on the outside of one of the game’s great institutions. That also affected the crowd, as an injection of English talent would have pushed the interest in the fixture much higher.
The top English clubs are crucial to the future of the game but they also owe a debt to sides like the Lions and the Barbarians. They have done a deal with the Lions, now it is time to do the same with the Baa-Baas.
There are some top drawer rugby men running some of England’s top clubs so surely they see the place for the Barbarians in 2011 and beyond – they grew up watching them, so get it on the Premiership Rugby agenda!
South Africa only had two first-teamers against a Barbarians 22 with 950 caps and still came with six points. On this showing I’d make the likely World Cup semi-final of South Africa v New Zealand next year too close to call. If they get everyone fit South Africa will be incredibly tough to beat.
The Springboks have enjoyed a very successful tour, discovered some new faces and they go to the World Cup in fine fettle.
Barbarians: O’Connor (Aus); Rococoko (NZ, Rabeni, Fj, 64), Mitchell (Aus), Ashley-Cooper (Aus), Nonu (NZ, Donald, NZ, 64); Giteau (Aus, capt), Genia (Aus, Ellis, NZ, 49); Perugini (It), Moore (Aus, Mealamu, NZ, h-t), Tialata (NZ, Yapp, Wal, 64), van Zyl (Stormers), Jack (NZ), So’oialo (NZ, Geldenhuys, It, 49), Williams (Wales, Braid, NZ, 22), Bourke (Chiefs, Geldenhuys, It, 22, Williams, Wales, 29).
Replacements: Yapp (Wales), , Braid (NZ), (NZ), Donald (NZ), Rabeni (Fiji).
South Africa: Lambie; Ndungane, Jacobs, Adrian Strauss (McLeod, 62), Mvovo; Jantjies (Aplon, 73), Hougaard; Oosthuizen (Mtawarira, h-t, Kruger, 68), Adriaan Strauss (Maku, 60), Van der Linde, Botha (van der Merwe, 30-39), Hargreaves van der Merwe, h-t), Alberts, Smith, Kankowski (Daniel, 55).
Barbarians (19) 26
Tries: Mitchell 2, O’Connor, Geldenhuys Cons: O’Connor 3
South Africa (3) 20
Tries: Ndungane, Botha, Bandise Con: Jantjies Pen: Jantjies