Long live the Barbarians

2010-11-30 07:52

Comment by Tank Lanning – Sport24 editor

London - In London to cover the last two games of the Springbok tour to the UK, it seems I am part of an ever shrinking group of people that not only believe in, but love the Barbarians concept.

In this professional era it seems we are happy (or forced) to let the once legendary traditions of rugby past just to slide into ignominy …

First it was the jar of Vaseline as the cycling short arrived, then it was the prop friendly cotton rugby jersey as players became fitter and Canterbury improved their product, then it was the post match beer with your direct opponent as energy goo and rehydration drinks came into fashion, then it was the traditional tour as Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations arrived, and now it seems the Barbarians might also be on their way out.

Certainly the Boks are happy to send in a young makeshift side rather than a full strength one, and you will definitely be able to buy a ticket at the stadium on Saturday, even though they are less than half the price of tickets to the England game last week.

It used to be the best of the UK players against a touring Southern hemisphere side, but with the IRB enforcing a “Test window” these days and this weekend not falling in that window, it will be more like a best of All Black and Wallaby side against the worst of the Boks …

I understand that players play too much rugby these days, and that this game is a bridge too far in a monumentally long season, but it would be great to find a place for the fixture.

Instead, using the official Barbarian website, a bit of an ode to a fantastic tradition …

The Barbarian concept was conceived by WP Carpmael in 1890 at Leuchters Restaurant in Bradford. His idea was to put together a touring side from all sources  to take on a few leading clubs in the land.

Carpmael suggested that the Barbarian Club be absolutely cosmopolitan with the aim of spreading good-fellowship amongst all rugby football players. Membership is by invitation and the only qualifications considered are that the player's football be of a good enough standard and that he should behave himself on and off the field. There is no discrimination whatsoever.

The Barbarian motto, instituted by the Right Reverend W.J. Carey, a former Bishop of Bloemfontein, is: "Rugby Football is a game for gentlemen in all classes, but for no bad sportsman in any class".

The Barbarians have no ground, no clubhouse, no entry fee, no subscription, and the clubs they visit pay their expenses in the main. The jersey has always been black and white with a monogram on the left breast, worn with dark shorts and the player's club socks.

In 1930 a new badge was designed consisting of two shields, one with the Rose, Thistle, Shamrock and Prince of Wales' Feathers, emblems of the Home Countries, and the other the Fern of New Zealand, Springbok of South Africa, and the Waratah of New South Wales (since, at that time, there was no Australian Rugby Union), the shields being surmounted by two lambs, jumping from one shield to the other in pursuit of a rugby ball.

In 1948 the Barbarians were asked by the Home Unions to put a side together to play the Wallabies as a fund raising exercise to enable the Wallabies to return home via Canada. The match proved an outstanding success, both in terms of the rugby on the field, and in achieving its aim. So much so that the Barbarians have since had the honour of playing subsequent International Touring sides at the end of their respective tours of Great Britain.

One of the bigger Barbarian occasions was when they took on the British Lions on their return from New Zealand in 1977. Although losing 23-14, the match generated £100 000 for the Jubilee Trust Fund and produced some sparkling rugby.

I hope this won’t be the last time the Springboks play the Barbarians, but it would not surprise me if it was, sadly …

Baa Baa squad (incomplete):

Backs: James O'Connor (Aus), Joe Rokocoko (NZ), Drew Mitchell (Aus), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Aus), Ma'a Nonu (NZ), Matt Giteau (Aus), Will Genia (Aus).

Forwards: Keven Mealamu (NZ), Stephen Moore (Aus), John Hayes (Ire), Salvatore Perugini (Ita), Neemia Tialata (NZ), Chris Jack (NZ), Tom Donnelly (NZ), Quintin Geldenhuys (Ita), Martyn Williams (Wal), Rodney So'oialo (NZ), Colin Bourke (Chiefs), Daniel Braid (NZ).

Coach: Nick Mallett
Assistant coach: Alan Solomons

Probable Springbok side:

Gio Aplon, Odwa Ndungane, Adi Jacobs, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Elton Jantjies, Francois Hougaard, Willem Alberts, Juan Smith (captain), Keegan Daniel, Bakkies Botha, Alistair Hargreaves, CJ van der Linde, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen

Bench: Bandise Maku, Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe, Ryan Kankowski, Charl McLeod, Zane Kirchner

Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 16:30


  • semloh - 2010-11-30 08:32

    I must say that Baa Baa backline looks deadly! Usually there is a few older "has-beens" thrown in the mix but the backs are current and fit players - our young Boks will be fully tested.....

      Kagiso - 2010-11-30 10:02

      Amen! But if conditions are dry our young backline should be up for it, will be an exciting game even if they lose we will be looking for those moments of brilliance from Elton and Pat. Adi will be fighting for a place in the world cup starting line up so he has something to prove as do Ndungane and Daniel. So I don't think they will be taking it likely. Barbar's 9-15 are frightening though!

  • brad.munz - 2010-11-30 08:35

    The entire BaaBaas backline is Oz and AB. Shrewed move Mallet.

      roboman1 - 2010-11-30 11:51

      that is because the European players are not getting released to play for the Baa Baas, unfortunately. Normally they have a great international blend, but this time its just about only NZ and Oz players

  • Mojalefa - 2010-11-30 08:45

    It will be truly sad if the Barbarians tradition had to land up in the dusty archives of days gone by. One of the most memorable and enjoyable games of rugby ever played was the Barbarians-All Blacks thriller way back in in 1973. Four minutes into the game Gareth Edwards scored what is perhaps the most famous try of all time, started by Phil Bennett inside his own 22 when he jinked past several defenders. Edwards himself said later: "The game against the All Blacks is one I will never forget and those of us who played in it will never be allowed to forget. It is a match that will live with me forever." That Barbarians side formed the nucleus of the British Lions who gave us such a drubbing in 1974. May the Barbarians indeed live for as long as the game rugby is played.

      BardofAvon - 2010-12-01 07:33

      Awesome comment.

  • wesselvosser - 2010-11-30 09:01

    I hope this game sticks to it's traditions...a game by gentleman for gentleman. Ought to be great show. But...i dont foresee amazing rugby coming from this. More a few individual's trying out their talents. Baba's by at least 12point. No disrespect to the baby boks. But i dont see them getting this one in the bag. Boks 4 Eva

  • BardofAvon - 2010-11-30 09:01

    Tank, this was your best article to date. Great work, thanks. And to top it all, you didn't try to predict the score! Heh heh! At this rate, you can collate all your articles to be published as an annual journal.

  • Boerseun - 2010-11-30 09:13

    This should never become lost. I would just like to see Baabaa teams made up of the best of the lot that perhapos are just not making it into national sides. These okes have the most to proof and this would offer them that opportunity.

  • h3fty1 - 2010-11-30 09:16

    Talking about the vaseline - you might want to give a few jars to the boks, they are gonna need it.. Poor them...

  • Tatunka - 2010-11-30 09:45

    Hey Tank, while I have to agree that the BaaBaa tradition is under pressure (sadly so) and the test window complicates player availability etc, I don't agree with you refering to the Bok team for Saturday as the "worst" of the Boks. Still a damn good team we have for Saturday. If I was Lambie or Bakkies or Willem Alberts (or any of the team for that matter) I'd be a bit pissed at you for refering to us in that way.

      scipio - 2010-11-30 10:39

      You really see that backline matching the BaaBaa's in any way? Bunch of lightweights in there. We will either get slaughtered or experience de ja vu, from the lions vs chiefs game earlier this year.

      Johann - 2010-11-30 10:49

      I agree, still a good team on paper with an OK bench but some of the combinations could be strangers to one another, the front row though could be all Cheetahs and they showed their scrumming power during C/Cup. Jantjies could fit Barbarian-style rugby perfectly and his ability to get a backline moving could play a decisive role in the Bok effort, looking forward to this match.

      roboman1 - 2010-11-30 11:56

      I think that Jantjies at flyhalf and Lambie at inside centre may well be the 2015 world cup combo, with hougaard at scrumhalf

  • Sean - 2010-11-30 10:25

    According to the Baa Baa line up, Northern hemisphere rugby is DEAD

      StaalBurgher - 2010-11-30 11:29


      Johnny - 2010-11-30 15:48

      ...except for Scottland....

  • Serias - 2010-11-30 10:30

    No problems in the forwards, but the backs are gonna have their jobs cut out. Baaba rugby is traditionally an open running game that fits the Aus and AB backs like a glove. Hopefully our backs turn up for the game otherwise it's going to be a long afternoon. Hopefully Elton and Lambie can bring something special to the game, but obviously the Baabaa's are gonna target their defensive channels. Hoping for a open, running and closely contested game where the BB's backs dont shred the Springbok's to pieces.

      IanJ - 2010-12-01 05:57


  • scipio - 2010-11-30 10:36

    Looks like a joint NZ/aus team to slaughter SA come saturday. Jantjies first game on tour he has to play against this? XD big lol from my side. Should have sent over Plumtree and his shark side rather than this.

  • DM - 2010-11-30 10:51

    Nice one, Tankie. Would be fun to see a southern hemisphere Baa Baas take on a northern hemisphere Baa Baas team one day.

      StaalBurgher - 2010-11-30 11:32

      That is practically a B&I Lions side for the NH. There record down South is not to good against the individual SH teams.

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