Barbarians too strong for South Africa

Jake White’s last match as coach of world champions South Africa ended with a defeat as the invitational Barbarians beat the Springboks 22-5 in a non-cap international at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Barbarians outscored South Africa three tries to one with Australia’s Matt Giteau, man of the match and Wales flanker Martyn Williams and Wallaby forward Rocky Elsom all crossing the line.

South Africa’s lone score came from a Barend Pieterse try.

It was an important win for the Barbarians, albeit against a South African side boasting just five starters from October’s World Cup final victory against England, as many had questioned their place in the professional game.

The Barbarians, despite dominating the first half, seemed set to turn round with a mere three-point lead until Martyn Williams’s try just before the break helped put them 15-5 ahead at the interval.

An early penalty from Giteau gave the Barbarians a 3-0 advantage in an open match.

But it needed a brilliant cover tackle from New Zealand wing Joe Rokocoko to deny impressive number eight Ryan Kankowski, who made his debut in last Saturday’s 34-12 Test win over Wales — South Africa’s first match since they defeated England in October’s World Cup final — a try in the left corner.

South Africa, though, had good field position. However, following a ruck barely 5m from the line they lost possession after the ball failed top go to hand from a scissors move involving star wing Bryan Habana.

New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu fly-hacked the ball downfield and regathered possession from Ricky Januarie as the South Africa scrumhalf tried to cover the danger.

The ball was worked out to Nonu’s fellow All Black, Conrad Smith, who found Rokocoko, who in turn delivered a scoring pass to Giteau, the Wallaby juggling the ball as he went over on a wet pitch.

Giteau missed the conversion but the Barbarians were then 8-0 up.

Minutes later the Barbarians should have had another try after a counter-attack initiated by Smith was only ended when Giteau’s pass deep inside Springbok territory was blocked by Habana.

But South Africa were slowly working their way back into the match and World Cup-winning centre Francois Steyn’s kick ahead for Habana was well-covered by Rokocoko.

But an ensuing ruck saw uncapped flanker Barend Pieterse, in for the injured Schalk Burger who was out with a broken nose, dive over for an athletic try in the corner, which Steyn couldn’t convert.

Many in the crowd had come to watch Jason Robinson in the England fullback’s last match before retirement and he then gave one more memory of his side-stepping skill.

In typical jinking fashion he left prop CJ van der Linde and wing Akona Ndungane behind, him with Januarie and Kankowski also failing to lay a hand on Robinson. His pass found Williams, who cleverly chipped ahead.

He found supporting Italy prop Federico Pucciarello, who returned the favour with a particularly well-timed pass from a front-row to send Williams in for a try that Giteau converted.

And there was another try for Barbarian supporters to cheer early in the second half, after a break by Fiji wing Isoa Neivua again caught the South Africans napping on the counter-attack. Australia flanker Rocky Elsom burst forward and his dive over the line convinced the video referee.

As the rain started to lash down, the Springboks pressed for another score. But the Barbarians, more famed for their attack than their tackling held them at bay.

Former New Zealand scrumhalf Justin Marshall led the defence before the forwards, with Williams heavily involved, kept them out.

In the closing stages, replacment back Tom Shanklin was first to touch down behind the Barbarians’ line after Steyn’s kick ahead nearly led to a try. — AFP



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Julian Guyer
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