Preview: Barbarians v Fiji
Thu, 28 Nov 2013 21:53
The yardstick is 24 seconds of magic
Entertainment is the name of the game when the Barbarians host Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.
Firstly, it is the centenary celebrations of Fiji and the teams would like to do the occasion justice.
But, more importantly, it is in the ethos of the Barbarians to produce a brand of rugby that provides the thousands of spectators at the stadium and millions watching on television with a high level of gratification.
BaaBaas captain admitted that the limited preparation time means putting structures and game-plans in place will always be a challenge.
However, the natural instinct will kick in for a team of talented individuals.
"At training you can just see the natural ability of the players," De Villiers said this week, when asked about their preparation.
"We do have a little bit of structure, but then again we want to go out and entertain the crowd on Saturday.
"A lot of tickets have already been sold for the game and it is our job to entertain."
While getting a good result (read victory) is important, entertainment remains the core element of the Barbarians' approach.
It was just over 40 years ago that 24 seconds of magic - a move started by Phil Bennett and finished off by Gareth Edwards - ensured the Barbarians would be in rugby folklore forever.
And it is by that standard that De Villiers and company will measure themselves.
Obviously the opposition is not of the same pedigree. Back in 1973 the BaaBaas played the All Blacks.
However, there are enough Springboks and All Blacks in the invitation side to ensure the BaaBaas have every chance of giving the spectators value for their money.
And the Fijians are not scared to play a high risk game either.
"They will come out and entertain on Saturday," De Villiers said, when asked about the Pacific Islanders and their role in the occasion - the centenary celebrations of Fijian rugby.
"They just have that natural ability to play rugby, the Fijians, that natural skill," the BaaBaas skipper said.
"We will have to be able to expect anything and everything on Saturday.
"They are phenomenal athletes, big, quick players - they can step, they can off-load."
De Villiers also spoke of the need to hold onto the ball and make sure the BaaBaas do the attacking and not the Fijians.
Fiji and the BaaBaas have met only once before, when in one of the most celebrated matches ever played by the Barbarians Fiji shocked the rugby world by demolishing a star-studded Barbarians team - containing legendary names such as Gareth Edwards, David Duckham, Phil Bennett, Fergus Slattery and JPR Williams - by 29-9 in 1970.
Players to watch:
For the Barbarians: It is an interesting mix of South Africans and New Zealand - with a few Argentineans, a Samoan and an Irishman thrown in for good measure. But the most interesting combination is at halfback - where Springbok Patrick Lambie will team up with uncapped Kiwi TJ Perenara. There will also be the brutally powerful loose trio of Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Steven Luatua, with lock Dominic Bird currently the tallest player in international rugby.
For Fiji: The absence of several players - the game falls outside the IRB's November Test window - means Fiji will field a team devoid of any experience. Top of that list of losses is regular sjipper Akapusi Qera. Asaeli Tikoirotuma will have a crucial role to play in midfield - both in terms of organasing the defence and as a playmaker. If Netani Talei come through his Pro12 game for the Newport Dragons and make the starting XV he will achieve a rare feat - two first-class games inside 24 hopurs.
Head to head: Seremaia Bai, at flyhalf for Fiji, will test the defensive capabilities of Barbarians No.10 Patrick Lambie. However, opposing rookie All Black Dominic Bird (at 206cm) will be a tall order for any of the Fijian locks - be that Apisai Naikatini (197cm) or Api Ratuniyarawa (195cm).
1970: Fiji won 29-9, Gosforth
Prediction: Only the romantics will back a Fijian win. Yes, in 1970 they managed it, but the class of 2013 is somewhat depleted. Expect the Barbarians to win by at least 20 points.
Barbarians: 15 Santiago Cordera, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Gavin Williams, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Mick O'Driscoll, 3 Matias Diaz, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Guillermo Ruan, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Willie le Roux.
Fiji: 15 Nikola Matawalu, 14 Adriu Delai, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sam Speight, 10 Seremaia Bai, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Sam Matavesi/Netani Talei, 6 Mala Ravulo, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Peni Ravai, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Naureure, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Sete Somoca, 19 Maku Koroiyadi, 20 Sam Matavesi/Netani Talei, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Waisea Luveniyali, 23 Alex Rokobaro.
Date: Saturday, November 30
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 03.30, Sunday, December 1 Fiji time)
Expected weather: It will be breezy, but mainly dry and bright. High of 9°C, low of 3°C
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Greg Garner (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
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