Mallet promises fireworks
NICK MALLETT has made a stirring defence of the Barbarians concept, ahead of today’s final match of the South Africans’ tour at Twickenham.
The big for mer Springbok coach who is hoping to add the South African scalp to the New Zealand one he took last year in the same fixture, insists the match has huge value for both the South African players and the Barbarians.
“This is a great chance for many of these South African players to make a real name for themselves” he said.
“Good performances in this game against this quality of opposition can make a big impression for the future. And with the World Cup so close there’s everything to play for.”
Mallett also strongly supported the Barbarians as a worthy part of the modern game.
“There is absolutely still a role for them” he insisted. “We have seen again another great example of what it gives players. Will Genia (Australia) and Andy Ellis (New Zealand) might face each other in a World Cup semi-final next September. Yet this week, they have been rooming together. They’ve eaten together, gone out shopping together and become inseparable; really big mates.
“The same happened last year with John Smit of South Africa and Richie McCaw of New Zealand.
“They built a fantastic relationship in the week of the Barbarians/New Zealand match, respecting each other as people, not just rugby players.
“And that friendship has really carried over to the contest between South Africa and New Zealand on the field.
“To create this kind of respect between the captains of two of the major rugby playing nations of the world must be valuable for the game as a whole.
“So many Barbarians players I speak to, say they have a great week and always remember it. This is one event they really do enjoy, without all the pressures associated with just about every other game they play.”
To what degree the Barbarians’ weary southern hemisphere players will dig in for victory in an exhibition match, remains to be seen. But Mallett insists: “We won’t be fooling around.
“We would love to play the sort of rugby New Zealand and Australia played this year; that is, holding onto the ball, using the power of the forwards and striking through the skill and speed of the backs.
“But we have to remember, England wanted to do that against South Africa yet got only 30% possession.
“I know we have to get momentum through our forwards because without them firing and matching the South Africans up front, we will have difficulties.
“But it should be a great game of rugby. We can’t sort out a highly structured defence in a week but the work we do in defence will show whether our players are committed to each other and want to put in a good performance.”
The Springboks’ coaches will hope players such as Elton Jantjies, Patrick Lambie (from fullback), Andries Strauss, Willem Alberts and several others will make compelling cases for inclusion in Springbok squads in 2011.
Strauss, Jantjies and prop Connie Oosthuizen are making their Springbok debuts while prop Werner Kruger and halfback Charl McLeod could join them off the bench in the new boys club.
Coach Peter de Villiers said: “The newcomers have been waiting for their chance and will bring energy and enthusiasm to the line-up at the end of a long season.
“This is their chance to show what they can do.
“But I’ve stressed to all the team that this match is not about personal performance but about performing as a team – if they do that they will all be successful.”