Preview: Barbarians v South Africa

Date published: December 3 2010

The Baa-Baas celebrate 120 years in the famous black and white hoops when they take on SA in the final international of the year.

The Barbarians celebrate 120 years in the famous black and white hoops when they take on South Africa in the final international match of the year.

The weather at Twickenham may be frightful, but the occasion will surely be delightful as Baa-Baas coach Nick Mallett attempts to put his countrymen to the sword with a star-studded Barbarians outfit oozing class.

The Springboks have won three and lost three of their six meetings with the Barbarians since the first game in 1952, and face another tough challenge this weekend in freezing conditions before they head home to some much welcomed sunshine.

Despite sub-zero temperatures, those who weather the snow will be warmed up with some much anticipated running rugby as one side in particular look to carry on the famous club's tradition of keeping the ball alive.

Well, that's the hope at least. And with a Barbarians back-line boasting such names as O'Connor, Rokocoko, Ashley-Cooper, Nonu, Mitchell and Giteau on the back of their jerseys – it's safe to say the Twickenham crowd are in for an early Christmas present.

Whether South Africa play the part of Scrooge and stick to their forward-power game in order to make sure of the tour-ending result, remains to be seen though. Should the Boks go this route, they will no doubt be welcomed by a chorus of boos from the Twickenham choir.

South Africa are yet to chance their arm on this tour, having bulldozed their way through 80 minutes against Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. So it may be a big risk to drop what's worked for them – Scotland being the only exception – all of a sudden. Does Bok coach Peter de Villiers please the crowd or please his bosses? I think we both know the answer to that, and baa-humbug to it.

After being assured of his position as head coach of South Africa, De Villiers will want to thank his employers with a victory at the same venue he managed to salvage his job following a 21-11 win over England seven days ago.

But based on our recent poll for the outcome of this clash, it appears the quality and not the result is more important to most readers and De Villiers should approach this rugby festival in the same vein. It's meant to be an occasion where the rule book gets thrown out the window, and fun is the name of the game. Ok Bakkies, that doesn't give you open season, but it does give everyone free reign to enjoy it a little more and let their hair down so to speak.

Of course it's not an official Test match, but there will always be players with a point to prove who perhaps didn't have the best of end-of-year tours, or, who didn't play at all.

In South Africa's case, there are three players making their debuts, with another two set for first starts in the green and gold. Saturday's match will be the last time we see the Springboks in action until July next year, and with rugby's biggest spectacle following soon after, this is one of the last chances for World Cup hopefuls to impress.

For the Baa-Baas, a player like Rodney So'oialo – snubbed by All Black selectors – will want to show that he's not over the hill, while Joe Rokocoko gets one last shot on tour to prove he's still got what it takes with a barrage of competition breathing down his neck back home.

It's set up to be a real cracker, but who will pull out the small prize in the end?

Prediction: The Bok pack will have the upper hand, so expect the Baa-Baas experienced backs to keep play away from the heavies by keeping hold of the pigskin, that could see the inexperience of South Africa's back-line exposed where their defence will be severely tested. Barbarians by seven.

Previous results:
2007: Barbarians won 22-5 at Twickenham
2000: Springboks won 41-31 at Millennium Stadium
1994: Barbarians won 23-15 at Lansdowne Road
1970: Springboks won 21-12 at Twickenham
1961: Barbarians won 6-0 at Cardiff Arms Park
1952: Springboks won 17-3 at Cardiff Arms Park

The teams:

Barbarians: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau (c), 9 Will Genia, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Rodney So'oialo, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Yapp, 18 Quintin Geldenhuys, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Seru Rabini.

South Africa: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Gio Aplon.

Date: Saturday, 4 December 2010
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (16:30 SA time)
Venue: Twickenham, London
Weather forecast: High of 5°C (windchill: -3°C), dropping to-2°C, with a 20 per cent chance of snow
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France), Peter Allan (Scotland)

By Dave Morris