Preview: Barbarians v Fiji

Date published: November 29 2013

The Barbarians and Fiji go head-to-head in what promises to be an entertaining encounter at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Barbarians and Fiji go head-to-head in what promises to be an entertaining encounter at Twickenham on Saturday.

Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers leads a Barbarians side with several experienced internationals in their ranks against a Fijian side who will be determined to secure victory as the encounter will celebrate the centenary of the Fiji Rugby Union.

The Baa-baas are coached by All Blacks boss Steve Hansen and De Villiers admitted that he's relishing the challenge of captaining the famous touring team and looking forward to working with Hansen who led his team to 14 out of 14 victories in Tests this year.

“It's a great honour to be captaining the Barbarians,” said De Villiers.

“The special thing is that it's only by invite, so some players never even get the chance to play. I'm just happy to be playing my second game for the Baa-Baas.

“Steve's only lost one Test match in a two-year period, which is remarkable. He seems to get the best out of his players and hopefully he can do that for us this weekend.

“It is a fantastic occasion for all the guys to come together. The Barbarians have a proud tradition so we will want to put on a good show.”

De Villiers will be surrounded by plenty of familiar faces, with eight Springboks in Hansen's matchday 23, including Schalk Burger.

The veteran flanker has endured a miserable 18 months with injury and then illness but eased his way back into action with Western Province near the end of the Currie Cup.

Hansen will also have a chance to field some of his lesser-used All Blacks at Twickenham, the venue for the 2015 World Cup final, with the likes of wing Frank Halai, scrum-half TJ Perenara, flanker Steven Luatua and lock Dominic Bird all in the run-on side.

Veteran All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu, who will start amongst the replacements for the Barbarians, insisted everyone in the squad was keen to put on a show for the crowd.

“Having fun is one of the first things Steve talked about,” he said.

“We're going to have a fun week but as rugby players we're all about reputations, so what we want to do is make a good impression on the field as well.

“We want to make sure we can say 'yes, we played well', and we don't want to let the jersey down.”

But while the Barbarians are in a relaxed mood, Fiji have spent the build-up to the game working out how to field their strongest team as the match falls outside the international window.

Fiji team manager Joe Browne said his side were battling to field a competitive side as several of their players returned to their clubs following last weekend's 26-7 victory against Romania.

“The game against Romania was, as we expected, really tough up front and they battled us all the way to the wire,” said Browne, who has lost Napolioni Nalaga, Timoci Nagusa, Wame Lewaravu, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Sisa Koyamaibole, Malakai Bakaniceva and Nemani Nadolo.

“The nightmare is making sure that we have replacement players for the match against the Barbarians.

“We hope to rope in Netani Talei, Nikola Matawalu, Leone Nakarawa and Henry Speight to fill the gap and have our fingers crossed.”

The match is a re-match of the Fijians' shock 29-9 win over the Barbarians at Newcastle Gosforth in 1970.

Barbarians chairman John Spencer, who played in that match, alongside greats like JPR Williams, Gareth Edwards and Fergus Slattery said Fiji showed that day that they didn't respect reputations.

“I suppose you could say that we were favourites to win the match but in the event we were overwhelmed by Fiji's relentless attacking.

“If I remember rightly, we were level at half-time but Fiji finished with seven tries! All we could do at the end was congratulate them on a phenomenal performance,” added the 66-year-old former centre, who played 14 Tests for England from 1969-71.

Prediction: With so much class in their ranks, and against an under-strength Fiji side, the Baa-baas should take this one comfortably. It will definitely be a great spectacle and Fiji will have their moments but the Barbarians will win by between 20 and 30 points!

The teams:

Barbarians: 15 Santiago Cordero, 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 Roan, 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 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Greg Garner (England)
Television match official: David Grashoff (England)