SA A too strong for Baa-Baas

South Africa A overcame a red-card setback to beat the French Barbarians 48-28 on Friday and win the series 2-0, reports JON CARDINELLI at Orlando Stadium.

Coach Johan Ackermann made wholesale changes for this second clash of the series with the aim of giving the players who did not start in the first game an opportunity to shine. As a result of those changes, and thus the absence of any established combinations, the hosts took some time to settle at the set pieces and on defence.

That said, several individuals made their presence felt in the first half. Warrick Gelant pierced the French line and then showed exceptional pace to beat the cover defence.

The fullback was, however, outdone by Ox Nche later in the half. The loosehead prop received the ball in space, tucked it under his arm, and then slipped into sixth gear. The small, yet spirited crowd began to sing as Nche crossed the line for a memorable try.

Francois Venter carried well to provide the SA A side with some go-forward in midfield, while Chris Cloete got through a lot of work at the breakdown. The openside flank repelled several would-be defenders to score the first of his two tries.

The hosts looked to be in trouble when lock Ruan Botha was red-carded for foul play at the end of the first half. Botha’s moment of madness reduced SA A to 14 men for as many as 42 minutes of the contest.

They were helped by the fact that the Barbarians lost their composure in the dying stages of the first half. Arnaud Mela was yellow-carded for a shoulder charge, and so 14 played 14 for the next 10 minutes. At half-time, the hosts led 24-14.

Cloete rounded the defence and scored under the posts shortly after the break. Fred Zeilinga added the extras to give the SA A side some breathing room.

The hosts’ defence did well to deny the French a try in the period immediately after half-time. When Lionel Mapoe streaked away to score at the other end of the field, SA A looked to be on course for the win, as well as the series victory.

The visitors scored next through No 8 Marco Tauleigne to keep their slim hopes of winning the match alive. With 20 minutes remaining, the Barbarians trailed by 17 points. They did have the advantage of an extra man, though.

Incredibly, the seven-man SA A pack won a scrum penalty right under the posts. Zeilinga converted the opportunity to put the hosts 20 points clear of the French. Zeilinga finished the match with a seven-from-seven goal-kicking record, as well as a personal tally of 16 points.

The French managed to cross the line in the 79th minute for a consolation try. The hosts would have the final say, though, with Gelant jetting in for his second of the evening, right on the full-time hooter.

South Africa A – Tries: Warrick Gelant (2), Chris Cloete (2), Ox Nche, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5), Jano Vermaak. Penalties: Zeilinga (2).

French Barbarians – Tries: Lucas Dupont (2), Marco Tauleigne, Louis Dupichot. Conversions: Frédéric Michalak (3), Anthony Belleau,

South Africa A – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Francois Venter (c), 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Lionel Cronjé, 23 Juan de Jongh.

French Barbarians – 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Lucas Dupont, 12 Arnaud Mignardi, 11 Fabrice Estebanez, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Félix Lambey, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Subs: 16 Rémi Bonfils, 17 Malik Hamadache, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Arnaud Mela, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Jean-Baptiste Dubie.

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Jon Cardinelli