Cape Town - Bakkies Botha, all 2.02m and
120kg of him, did his level best to look like an established master of the
He neurotically re-checked the placement of
the ball after he had carefully put it on the Twickenham tee reasonably wide
out on the right, and there was just a hint of a Jonny Wilkinson-style crouch and
studied second glance at the posts before he took a few steps forward and gave
the leather an indelicate thump.
The conversion ended up having a bit of a woer-woer element to it, as we say back
in South Africa ... and no, regrettably John Philip Botha didn’t end his
trophy-laden first-class career with an extra two points, even if all of us have
seen considerably worse attempts by tight forwards.
It was anything but a decisive 81st-minute
kick anyway, given that a slick Argentina comfortably beat the Barbarians 49-31
on Saturday after a fitting exhibition of rugby union in the coveted club’s 125th
But it would still have been immensely
gratifying to many enthusiasts in SA to have witnessed BaaBaas captain Victor
Matfield notch the game’s final try – never mind that the veteran athlete had
to do little more than flop over – to facilitate his long-time “blood brother”
at Test and domestic level having that priceless crack at a career-ending
The 36-year-old Botha, not exactly oozing
match fitness of late, had only entered the fray in the 66th minute
as a replacement for much younger compatriot and fellow-Springbok Lood de
Jager, so he had a poignant quarter of an hour back in alliance with the man he
has so often teamed up with for the Boks and Bulls over the course of some 15
seasons since 2001.
They ended their lock partnership on a
chilly London day sporting a ripe old combined age of 74 ... not far off the
number of points scored in the suitably entertaining fixture, featuring some
tries that would have made the watching BaaBaas icon of 1973, Gareth Edwards,
The Pumas underlined just how the game has
progressed in their country recently as their expected, superior organisational
sense held powerful sway and they both created and exploited excellent space
through a polished, multi-faceted style of play - watch out for that first-time
Argentinean outfit in Super Rugby 2016; they’ll be no mugs.
For the relatively little it mattered at
the very end of a long and demanding season for southern hemisphere players,
the SANZAR-loaded BaaBaas had their moments before the traditional “social” element
of their get-together over a few days took its toll increasingly obviously as
the game progressed.
From a purely South African perspective, De
Jager having another crackerjack outing - simply carrying on where he had left
off at the World Cup and before it this year - was a pleasing reminder that Bok
lock stocks stay in quality hands now that Matfield and Botha have moved out.
The English television commentators lauded
the Cheetahs player as both a standout athlete and physical presence on the day
despite having “the face of a 14-year-old” and, with age strongly on their
side, he and Eben Etzebeth look like taking the Boks through at least the next
two World Cup cycles in a manner not unlike the prior excellence of the old
It is worth remembering that Matfield isn’t
quite done at first-class level yet, as he is now contracted to Northampton
Saints for a year - and if he did anything on Saturday, it was confirm that he
retains a healthily purring engine in stamina and mobility terms.
The other man from our shores to catch the
eye in a relatively short burst of activity against the Pumas was Pat Lambie:
he and Sharks colleague Cobus Reinach got on for the BaaBaas in the 51st
minute, albeit not as a “nine and ten” partnership.
Lambie instead replaced All Black Ryan
Crotty at inside centre and served up a useful reminder - as if it were needed - of his ability to cover at least three spots in a backline with confidence.
He quickly added some overdue punch and
structure to an otherwise stuttering Barbarians backline, looking twinkle-toed and
creative on attack and making at least one vital cover tackle when another
Argentinean try looked virtually a fait accompli.
It mattered not a lot that the BaaBaas went
down by a clear-cut 18 points; the game itself is always intended to be the
winner on occasions like these and that was how things panned out.
Expect a few multi-national pints to be
sunk in their midst, into the wee hours of Sunday.
With at least one, emotional round on
Bakkies Botha ahead of closing time ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing