The Barbarians stand for flair, courage, spirit and passion. A throwback to the amateur era when rugby was as much about making friends and actually enjoying the game as it was about winning. I flipping love them!
Of course this weekend’s game should be played at the end of the tour instead of the beginning, but it was with tears in my baby blues that I read the comments from coaches Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick about “not playing BaaBaa rugby” and “sticking to the plan”.
Yes the Boks have three official Tests to prepare for, but with the two squads being so different, the BaaBaa game offers the coaching staff the perfect opportunity to experiment a little with the pressure cooker valve removed.
No need to ban all forms of kicking, mauling or getting over the gain-line using a one off runner, but perhaps introduce a few subtle experimental changes, and allow the players a little more freedom when it comes to making on-field decisions.
Things like asking the tackled player to look for the offload first instead of going to ground, asking players approaching the attacking breakdown to look for said offload rather than go for the clean, getting the ball wide from first phase, trying to use forwards and backs in a three pass move in the trams. Or even as simple as using the outside centre to kick instead of the scrumhalf and flyhalf - with a view to sucking in a few defenders first.
We are quick with the “but we don’t have the skills” excuse when asked about our persistence with a more “traditional” game plan. But one thing we did see from the top sides in the Currie Cup is that our players actually do have the skills to play a wider game. Sure it was in an environment that saw defensive structures already on Clifton third, but is that not exactly what the BaaBaas will offer?
At best, the BaaBaas are a classy Super Rugby side. At worst, they are a hotch-potch Super Rugby side short of a gallop nursing a massive hangover. At some stage, they will wane. To use a little water polo parlance, “Take a dip”!
The team I wold pick:
15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Thomas du Toit
Substitutes: 16 Lizo Gqoboka, 17 Bongi Mbonambi, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Cheslin Kolbe
Perhaps Jamba Ulengo gets a run ahead of Petersen given that I think every player taken on tour should get some game time. Another option is to play Combrinck at fullback and Ulenga on the wing, but I think the Boks need to take a good look at Kriel at fullback.
More tears in my baby blues as I pick a pesky “swinger” prop on the bench, but the selectors, in all their wisdom, did not pick a second tighthead for this game!
We know what we have in the other players in the squad for this game, so why play them? And in any case, how incredibly exciting does this side look?
Give them licence to play what they see in front of them, and make early use of the bench.
Sure they will make errors, but in every mistake there is potential for growth.
The clincher? Embrace the BaaBaa spirit wholly by giving the Boks Sunday off so they can mingle socially with the opposition after the game!
Some rugby traditions are meant to stay!
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.Disclaimer: Sport24
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