Mallett seeks running game

2010-12-04 00:00

THE South African rugby public are offered a peep of the future when the young, untried Springboks end the international season when they face the Barbarians at a freezing Twickenham today.

Coach Peter de Villiers, in his determination to provide the dirt-trackers, his patient reserves, with some exposure at the end of the tour, has selected a number of untested combinations and half-a-dozen players who have seen little game time in recent weeks.

In the opposite corner will be the Barbarians and coach Nick Mallett has drawn together some of the most exciting and dangerous runners in international rugby to celebrate this festival of rugby.

Only two of the Springbok line-up, Juan Smith and Bakkies Botha, are first-choice selections but a number of the youngsters, among them the two 20-year-olds, Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies, wing Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Hougaard, Willem Alberts and Coenie Oosthuizen, are just setting out on their international careers.

Mallett believes their freshness and excitement will pose problems for the Baa-Baas who are at the end of a long year of rugby and have had little time to prepare.

“The Boks have taken the chance to have a look at some new faces,” Mallett said. “The England game completely turned around the South Africans’ tour after narrow wins to Ireland and Wales and the defeat to Scotland.

“It would have been a poor tour if they’d lost to England, but now they’ve done the right thing by resting most of their big names.”

The fringe Springbok players, vying for World Cup selection, will “present their own unique threat”.

“Players like Willem Alberts, a really powerful guy and a very good ball-carrier, can make a further case for inclusion in that World Cup squad and wing Lwazi Mvovo can confirm his good start at this level.

“And it will be interesting to see how new boys like Andries Strauss and Elton Jantjies cope at this level. These guys should be focused because there’s a lot to play for.”

While the Barbarians will showcase a glittering array of talents, particularly among the backs, cohesion will obviously be a problem.

De Villiers is hoping that the hard men in the Springbok pack, Bakkies Botha, Willem Alberts and captain Juan Smith, the all-Free State front-row and an enthusiastic bunch of youngsters, will off-set the world-class talent in the Barbarian backline.

Certainly the most effective way of stopping big men like Joe Rokocoko, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ma’a Nonu, Drew Mitchell and James O’Connor running at and over Jantjies and his young backs is to limit their opportunities and space.

If Bakkies and his bruisers fail to keep the Baa-Baas pack on the backfoot and cut their supply of possession, the Bok backs will struggle to keep a lid on the attacking play of the five Wallaby and two All Black stars.

“It’s important for our forwards to do well at the set-piece,” said Mallett.

“Our backs should then get us on the front foot and we will use the forwards after that. That is the approach these players are comfortable with.”

It was 50 years ago that the Baa-Baas ended the 29-match unbeaten tour run of Avril Malan’s Springboks with a 6-0 win in Cardiff. The spirit of the famous club was forgotten that day as the desperate Barbarians set out to lower the Boks’ colours and succeeded.

Ten members of that triumphant side will be at Twickenham today for a reunion, but Mallett has emphasised that this time tradition will prevail and the current Barbarians’ first priority will be to entertain.

And that will be welcomed by haggard South African rugby supporters. After the tensions of the past month, this is an opportunity to relax and enjoy the rugby, to lie back ... and think of New Zealand.

TEAMS

Barbarians: James O’Connor, Joe Rokocoko, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ma’a Nonu, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau (captain), Will Genia, Colin Bourke, Martyn Williams, Rodney So’oialo, Chris Jack, Anton van Zyl, Neemia Tialata, Stephen Moore, Salvatore Perugini. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, John Yapp, Quintin Geldenhuys, Daniel Braid, Andrew Ellis, Stephen Donald, Seru Rabini.

Springboks: Patrick Lambie, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Andries Strauss, Lwazi Mvovo, Elton Jantjes, Francois Hougaard, Ryan Kankowski, Juan Smith (captain), Willem Alberts, Alistair Hargreaves, Bakkies Botha, CJ van der Linde, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Tendai Mtawarira, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Charl McLeod, Gio Aplon.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France).

ON TV TODAY

Kickoff: 4.30 pm – live on M-Net, SuperSport 2 and M-Net HD

Boks stay with the past in looking ahead to the World Cup, page 50

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