South Africa 'A' edge French Baabaas in try-fest
REPORT: It was by means a fluid performance but the South Africa 'A' team did enough to edge the French Barbarians 36-28 in a thrilling 10-try encounter in Durban.
It was a typical 'exhibition' game that featured plenty of tries and scintillating skills as a result of the free-flowing nature of the 80 minutes.
The home side battled back to take a 22-21 lead into the half-time interval, before keeping their noses ahead in the second half to bag the victory.
The French Barbarians made a fast start as they put the South Africa 'A' side under immediate pressure. It was not long before the visitors were rewarded as scrumhalf Yann Lesgourgues sniped his way over the line. Frédéric Michalak added the extras to hand the Baabaas a 7-0 lead after four minutes.
A stolen line-out on the visitors' 22 saw the home side launch an attack. The ball was handed to fullback Lwazi Mvovo who broke through the defensive line to dot down. Lionel Cronje added the extras to level matters at 7-7 by the 11th minute.
The visitors hit back immediately as Michalak started and finished the attack after they regained possession from the kick-off. He curled the conversion through the uprights to hand the visitors a 14-7 lead on the 14-minute mark.
South Africa 'A' took the lead 10 minutes later as they bagged a further two unconverted tries. Makazole Mapimpi continued his try-scoring form when he dotted down in the corner after his teammates turned the ball over at the breakdown in the 20th minute.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe handed the home side the lead in the 24th minute when he was on-hand to receive a Cronje offload five-metres from the French Baabaas try-line after the flyhalf broke through their defence from the halfway line.
Cronje was unable to slot either conversion but South Africa 'A' managed to bag a 17-14 lead.
The lead was extended in the 32nd minute when Harold Vorster ran a brilliant line on the visitors' 10-metre line to snap up an Uzair Cassiem pass and race away to score in the corner. Once again, Cronje failed with the conversion but the lead was now 22-14.
The Baabaas narrowed the deficit to a solitary point with three minutes remaining in the half as Michalak showcased some silky skills. He pounced on a loose ball, poked it ahead before slap-passing it to Anthony Belleau, who saw off Mapimpi to dot down. Michalak's conversion taking the deficit to 21-22.
The free-flowing nature of the match continued in the second half and it would be the visitors who retook the lead with the first points of the half. Michalak again the catalyst in putting a well-weighted grubber through that was chased down by Anthony Belleau. Michalak's conversion ensured a 28-22 lead in the 56th minute.
It took the home side another 10 minutes to regain the lead when, after a sustained bit of pressure in their opponents' 22, Ruan Combrink sent a high cross-kick that Vorster latched onto. Cronje slotted the conversion to edge the home side ahead 29-28.
The match began to become stop-start as fatigue set in but it was the home side that sealed the victory in the 77th minute when Mvovo showed plenty of speed to race away and grab his second try. Fred Zeilinga stepped up to slot the conversion to stretch the lead to 36-28.
Man of the match: Lwazi Mvovo carried the ball strongly when he got the chance and Lionel Cronje showed glimpses of his Super Rugby form, despite his kicking at goal being off the boil. Harold Vorster proved once again how dangerous he can be with ball in hand. Despite the positives for the South African 'A' side, there was one man on the field who showed that he still has what it takes to play at the highest level. He displayed his skills, marshalled his troops brilliantly and had a hand in nearly all of his side's points - our man of the match is none other than Frédéric Michalak.
For South Africa A:
Tries: Mvovo 2, Mapimpi, Notshe, Vorster 2
Cons: Cronje 2, Zeilinga
For Barbarians Français:
Tries: Lesgourgues, Michalak, Belleau 2
Cons: Michalak 4
South Africa A: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Francois Venter.
Barbarians Français: 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jonathan Danty, 12 Jean-Baptiste Dubié, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Frédéric Michalak (captain), 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet, 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Clément Ric, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Clément Poitrenaud.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Vusi Msibi (South Africa), Blake Beattie (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)