Deans backs Boks to come good

Robbie Deans (Gallo Images)
Robbie Deans (Gallo Images)

London - Barbarians coach Robbie Deans believes the future is bright for South African rugby despite his scratch side holding the Springboks to a dramatic 31-31 draw at Wembley.

An already tough year for South Africa threatened to get worse when they were 31-19 down with just nine minutes left in their European tour opener on Saturday.

But an unfamiliar-looking side - several first-choice players were missing ahead of next weekend's Test against England across London at Twickenham - squared the match after centres Francois Venter and Rohan Janse van Rensburg both crossed late on.

Their efforts completed a 10-try thriller which saw Australia's Luke Morahan, a second-half replacement, score two for the Barbarians.

It is just over a year since South Africa came within two points of eventual champions New Zealand in a gripping World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.

But under Allister Coetzee, who replaced Heyneke Meyer as coach after the World Cup, they have lost five of their last 10 matches - including a record 57-15 defeat by New Zealand in Durban last month.

Nevertheless, Deans said: "South Africa are always thereabouts. They were the closest team to beating the All Blacks at the last World Cup and they will be right there in the next one (in Japan in 2019).

"Because of the expectations of the nation, they'll find a way to be competitive," the former Australia coach added.

The worth of a non-cap Barbarians international has been questioned in a professional era where star players are often unavailable because of club or country commitments.

But not by Deans.

"The Barbarians fixture is unique. It's given a young group an opportunity to show that they can play at this level.

"There will be lots of people watching.

"In New Zealand, they will be looking at the loosehead (Reggie Goodes) and a number of blokes who've had one Test and guys like Richard Mo'Unga (who came off the bench to land a couple of conversions) and (centre) Richard Buckman who aspire to that level.

"Things happen in such a congested calendar year, there's a lot of injuries and you just don't know who's going to be there at the end.

"They can't go back to 'Beaver' again at the next World Cup," added Deans in a reference to fly-half Stephen Donald who kicked the decisive points in New Zealand's 2011 World Cup final win over France following his late call-up to an injury-hit squad.- 'Born coach' Greenwood -

Will Greenwood, a member of England's 2003 World Cup-winning side, played for the Barbarians before making his Test debut and he was involved again this match as Deans's assistant coach.

Since retiring, former centre Greenwood has forged a media career while coaching at junior club and youth level.

But Deans said Greenwood could go even further.

"He was born to coach that bloke - I think you'll see more of him.

"We know his history, He's creative, it's in his genes and his pedigree."

Greenwood's father, Dick, coached the England side that beat New Zealand 15-9 at Twickenham in 1983 when Deans was the All Blacks' fullback.

"Thanks for reminding me!," joked Deans.

But he stressed Saturday's match would have done a lot for South Africa as well as Barbarians past and present.

"They got the equivalent of an international, which puts them in a much better place for next week," he said.

The Barbarians did though force numerous turnovers thanks to a New Zealand back-row of Luke Whitelock, Jordan Taufua and Brad Shields who have just one All Blacks cap -- won by Whitelock against Japan in 2013 -- between them.

It was a point emphasised by Coetzee, who said: "The most disappointing thing was the amount of possession we turned over.

"That is something we'll have to work hard on."

Coetzee was pleased, however, by his side's rally from 31-19 down.

"The players showed great fighting spirit to come back. I think the other pleasing aspect was the fact we scored five tries."

Coetzee added fullback Jesse Kriel, replaced at half-time, would have a scan on knee and ankle "niggles"

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