South Africa staged a face-saving fightback late in the second half to salvage a share of the spoils in a 31-all crowd-pleasing spectacle at Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, on Saturday afternoon.
The Baabaas held a deserving 17-12 halftime lead and with some 10 minutes left in the second half they looked home and dry with a commanding 31-19 lead. But the Boks drew heavily on their attacking talents of their three-quarters and snatched two tries as the Barbarians surrendered the lead in this international friendly.
In the end, each side managed five tries and this untried Bok combination would have inspired confidence in the South African ranks with this performance to kick-off the end-of-year tour in Europe.
There were early signs that the Barbarians were out to keep their traditional playing style alive when they set off on a wave of attacks on the back of a crisp inter-passing game. The Bok defence stood firm but they could not prevent the Barbarians from keeping the ball alive and they paid the price when Blues fullback Melani Nanai barged over for a 4th minute try which flyhalf Robert du Preez failed to convert (5-0).
The Boks shook off the setback with a spirited response and flyhalf Patrick Lambie set up an attacking line-out with a penalty to touch on the Baabaas 22m line. Lock Pieter-Steph du Toit came good with the catch at the uncontested line-out and then ran in unchallenged to score the Boks’ opening try which went unconverted in the 12th minute.
There was more pressure from the Boks and after they were held up twice just five metres from the tryline, the Baabaas secured a turn-over under their posts. They staged a break-out in the finest traditions of Baabaas rugby and their scrumhalf Andy Ellis rounded off with his side’s second try. Du Preez converted for a 12-5 lead in the 20th minute.
In the 24th minute, the Boks were back in the picture when flanker Roelof Smith burst through the middle of a driving maul 10 metres and dived over a try which Lambie converted, making for a 12-all scoreline.
Baabaas leftwing Taqele Naiyaravoro was prevented from scoring by a superb Jessie Kriel cover tackle four minutes ahead of the break. However, he was put in possession three minutes later and this time he steamrolled his way through with Kriel and Sergeal Petersen hanging on to dot down at the corner flag. Du Preez again failed to goal the conversion but it was enough to ensure a 17-12 Baabaas halftime lead.
Four minutes into the second half, the Boks were first out of the blocks after a fine midfield line break by Ruan Janse van Rensburg who fed Petersen who had come well off his wide position to join the attack. He broke clear of the Baabaas with a sprint downfield before dotting down under the sticks. Lambie’s conversion gave the Boks the lead for the first time in the match (19-17).
The Boks had a lucky let-off nine minutes later when the Baabaas chose to kick an up-and-under from a penalty into the in-goal area. The Boks fumbled as they scrambled to gather possession but just ahead of the Baabaas touchdown they were adjudged to knock-on and the try was disallowed.
However, the Baabaas went ahead in the 57th minute when substitute Luke Morahan rounded off a team move from the Boks’ 10m line and another substitute Richard Mo’unga added the conversion which allowed their side to regain the lead at 24-19.
Australian Morahan was in again 10 minutes later when the Bok defence out wide sprang a leak and Mo’unga’s conversion opened up a 12-point lead at 31-19.
At this stage, the game looked beyond the Boks but they surprised with the way they fought back and two promising moves in ensuing play produced a try by centre Francois Venter after leftwing Jamba Ulengo featured prominently the build-up work. Lambie’s conversion closed the gap to five points (31-26).
The Boks continued to bring their backline into play and with the forwards at hand to keep the attacks alive, Venter’s centre partner Janse van Rensburg crossed at the corner flag for an unconverted try to level scores at 31-all.
Scorers: Barbarians 31 (17): Tries: Melani Nanai, Andy Ellis, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Luke Morahan (2). Conversions: Robert du Preez, Richard Mo’unga (3)
Springboks 31 (12): Tries: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Roelof Smit, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter, Ruan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (3) – African News Agency (ANA)
Desperately short of confidence after a dismal season the Springboks will be hoping to gain some much-needed confidence when they open their end-of-year tour against the Barbarians at Wembley Stadium, London, on Saturday afternoon.
The Baa-baas hold the edge over the Boks, having won four times to South Africa’s 3, and also won the two most recent encounters – in 2007 and 2010.
The Boks have lost five of their nine Tests this year and managed only two wins in six outings in the Rugby Championship.
The match hasn’t got Test match status and normally comes around at the end of the tour, but this time it will kick-start their trip.
With the match falling out of the international window, the Boks weren’t allowed to use any of their overseas-based players, who will only join the team on Monday for the Tests against England, Italy and Wales.
Bok coach Allister Coetzee therefore named six uncapped players in his starting line-up and another three on the bench, while the team will be captained by flyhalf Pat Lambie with regular skipper Adriaan Strauss rested for this game.
The players will not be capped for this game but will be known as Springbok ‘tourists’.
15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Pat Lambie (captain), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Ruan Combrinck
15 Melani Nanai (Blues), 14 Matt Faddes (Highlanders), 13 Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders & New Zealand), 12 Richard Buckman (Highlanders & Panasonic), 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs, Panasonic & Australia), 10 Robert du Preez (Stormers), 9 Andy Ellis (Crusaders, Kobelco Steelers & New Zealand), 8 Luke Whitelock (Highlanders & New Zealand), 7 Jordan Taufua (Crusaders), 6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes), 5 Michael Fatialofa (Hurricanes), 4 Martin Muller (Lions), 3 Paddy Ryan (Waratahs & Australia), 2 Akker van der Merwe (Lions), 1 Reggie Goodes (Hurricanes)
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Ready (Reds), 17 Schalk van der Merwe (Montpellier), 18 Toby Smith (Rebels & Australia), 19 Sam Carter, (Brumbies & Australia), 20 Ruan Ackermann (Lions), 21 Nic Stirzaker (Rebels), 22 Richard Mo’unga (Crusaders), 23 Luke Morahan (Force & Australia)