New Zealand and South Africa’s depth was significant at Twickenham as the Barbarians ran Australia close, writes MARK KEOHANE.
The Barbarians led Australia 22-21 after 57 minutes and so nearly snatched a famous win four minutes into stoppage time but a desperate tackle denied New Zealander Matt Todd and Australia survived 40-36.
The Barbarians squad included 10 New Zealanders and seven South Africans – and none of the 17 are currently in their respective national touring squads.
New Zealand’s depth, more than anything, was emphasised. There are 35 All Blacks in the United States this weekend and 23 New Zealand Maori players put 60 points past Japan earlier in the day.
Add the 10 Kiwis at Twickenham and it’s not just the All Blacks who make New Zealand rugby strong. The depth is something to behold. South Africa isn’t far behind because the South African contingent among the Barbarians were equally impressive.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen would have smiled most. Colin Slade, at flyhalf, was outstanding and he is currently viewed as the fourth choice for the All Blacks. Steven Luatua was strong throughout and Matt Todd was Richie McCaw-like, especially in the final 15 minutes.
South African flanker Heinrich Brüssow got 30 minutes and started to show his class in the final 15 minutes. It was a good occasion for him to be involved in and it would have ignited his desire for occasions of greater magnitude than the lucrative Japanese club circuit.
Nineteen-year-old Sharks prop Thomas du Toit was strong in the latter part of the match and Sarel Pretorius is a scrumhalf made for Barbarians-type rugby.
South African players need to be involved in more of these type of matches because the experience of playing alongside players from other nations can only make for a better player.
It also gives our players a platform to showcase that there is as much skill in the South African game as there is physicality.
The most popular try of the day came from Australian Nick Cummins, even if it was in the colours of the Barbarians. The Honey Badger’s last visit to Twickenham was for Australia against England, and he scored.
His try came in the final 10 minutes and set up a thrilling finale. South African Marnitz Boshoff, a replacement for Slade, also scored and added the conversion to leave the Baa-Baas within a try of winning.
And boy did they give it everything in taking the game into four minutes of stoppage time. Their patience almost produced the miracle win, but unfortunately the 84th-minute inside pass that broke Australia’s defence went to Todd, an opensider, and not to the express pace of an outside back.
Todd almost got away but he did not have the pace to make the 20m run to the tryline.
Australia’s best player was centre Tevita Kuridrani and New Zealand centre Francis Saili also excelled.
The match, in terms of skill, was a statement for southern hemisphere rugby, but the game did not allow for Brüssow to quite make as bold a statement.
Australia will struggle on tour against organised defensive units and packs with greater cohesion and mongrel.
The Barbarians, a mix-and-match combination, didn’t have enough class in their tight five to expose Australia’s set-piece frailty but they had enough among the loose forwards and backs to come within one tackle of the Barbarians beating Australia for the first time since 1976.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images