Barbarians down Springboks
December 1, 2007
An all-star Barbarians side took the scalp of world champions South Africa with a 22-5 victory in their clash at Twickenham.
Jason Robinson showed what rugby will be missing by marking his final first-class appearance with a dazzling display in the Barbarians' crushing victory over South Africa. Robinson, the most successful cross-code player of all time, brought down the curtain on a professional career that started at Wigan rugby league club 17 years ago.
The 33-year-old's 538th and final competitive match was a fitting finale for the magical full-back and his departure in the 68th minute was met by a standing ovation. Shrugging off any lingering effects from the dislocated shoulder sustained in England's World Cup final defeat by South Africa, Robinson shredded the Springbok defence with several dazzling runs.
On the strength of today's performance he could easily add to his 51 England caps, although his desire to spend more time with his family appears to rule that out. All that was missing was the try the occasion demanded and it would have come had Australia fly-half Matt Giteau not chosen the wrong option in the first half.
The day may have been all about Robinson, but Twickenham was treated to an entertaining contest that inflicted an anticlimactic end to Jake White's successful reign as Springboks coach. South Africa looked anything but World Cup winners, lacking inspiration and allowing the star-studded Barbarians line-up to frequently pierce their defence.
They rallied in the second half when the rain restricted the Barbarians' attacking instincts and the attritional battle was far more to the Springboks' liking. But the damage had already been done with Giteau, Martyn Williams and Rocky Elsom touching down, while Barend Pieterse registered South Africa's only points.
The hero of the first half was Ma'a Nonu, the bulldozing All Black centre who smashed the Springbok defence with a series of wrecking-ball runs. A number of Barbarians - including Federico Pucciariello, Justin Marshall and Giteau - put their hands up for the man of the match award but Wales openside Williams ultimately took the honour.
Robinson's entrance onto the pitch was emotionally greeted by the reduced 58,000 Twickenham crowd but his first touch saw him swamped by green shirts.
The Barbarians, determined to topple the world champions, won a penalty shortly afterwards and skipper Mark Regan pointed straight for the posts and Matt Giteau made no mistake. Preserving the invitational side's swashbuckling traditions also remained top of the agenda, however, with Joe Rokocoko and Nonu orchestrating a thrilling passage of play.
South Africa paraded five World Cup winners in their starting line-up - Schalk Burger withdrew shortly before kick-off because of a broken nose - but their tackling was off-key early on. A try-saving tackle from Rokocoko on Ryan Kankowski, who had galloped free from the tail of a line-out, saved the Barbarians in the 14th minute.
South Africa continued to pound away at the line only to see their own whitewash breached by a brilliant passage of play from the Barbarians. Nonu pounced on a mistake by Ricky Januarie and the ball went through the hands of Giteau, Conrad Smith and Rokocoko before Wallabies star Giteau collected the scoring pass.
The Barbarians' looked lethal every time they touched the ball and they nearly crossed against in the 27th minute following a sublime interchange between All Blacks Nonu and Rokocoko. South Africa pegged back the deficit to 8-5 through Cheetahs blindside Barend Pieterse who grabbed a loose ball at close range and dived over.
But the Barbarians' response was sublime, Robinson setting off on a trademark run that was continued by Martyn Williams' chip ahead which the former Wales openside finished himself. Williams' back row colleague Elsom nudged Eddie O'Sullivan's side further ahead with a charging run initiated by a poor clearance from South Africa.
England hooker Regan was substituted in the 51st minute and 10 minutes later Ben Cohen - clubless since the collapse of his move to Leicester in September and hoping to revive his England career - came on. Heavy rain was taking its toll on the second half and the sin-binning of substitute All Black Troy Flavell for a high tackle on Bryan Habana did not help the Barbarians' cause.
But their inspired defence and will to win kept their line intact, sealing a famous victory over the Springboks.
Barbarians (15) 22 Tries: Giteau, Williams, Elsom Con: Giteau (2) Pen: Giteau
South Africa (5) 5 Try: Pieterse
Barbarians: Jason Robinson (England), Joe Rokocoko (Blues & New Zealand), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes & New Zealand), Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes & New Zealand), Isoa Neivua (Warriors & Fiji), Matt Giteau (Western Force & Australia), Justin Marshall (Ospreys & New Zealand), Federico Pucciarello (Munster & Italy), Mark Regan (captain, Bristol & England), Salesi Ma'afu (Brumbies), Brent Cockbain (Wales), Justin Harrison (Ulster & Australia), Rocky Elsom (Waratahs & Australia), Martyn Williams (Cardiff & Wales), Jerry Collins (Hurricanes & New Zealand)
Replacements: Schalk Brits (Stormers), JD Moller (Stormers), Troy Flavell (Blues & New Zealand), Michael Owen (Dragons & Wales), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff & Wales), Peter Grant (Stormers), Ben Cohen (England)
South Africa: Ruan Pienaar; Akona Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana; Andre Pretorius, Enrico Januarie; CJ Van der Linde, Bismarck Du Plessis, Jannie Du Plessis, Johann Muller (captain), Johan Ackermann, Barend Pieterse, Juan Smith, Ryan Kankowski
Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Heinke Van Der Merwe, Albert Van Den Berg, Hilton Lobberts, Wynand Olivier, Wayne Julies, Conrad Jantjes
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