Sunday, 6 December 2009

Baa-Baas: Holding onto Tradition?

Barbarians 25 - 18 New Zealand

Yesterday a Barbarians side predominantly filled with South Africans and Australians beat a second string New Zealand side at a far from full Twickenham.  Obviously the 25-18 scoreline was excellent for the Barbarians, as they were a team that only formed a week earlier and yet they managed to beat New Zealand for the first time since 1973 - yes, the first time since the game which included that famous try:

From what I saw yesterday's match was generally enjoyable.  It had tries galore, some enterprising breaks and entertaining running and all in all it was a good game.  I say this but I have to admit that it didn't have my full concentration as I was busily draping tinsel around my living room and trying to untangle a ball of fairy lights. 
As I watched the match with my left eye whilst using my right to organise my baubles, I did find this game slightly unusal.  I know the Baa-Baas is an invitational team but I did have to wonder why there was only a smattering of players from the northern hemisphere in the Barbarians side, especially as the game was being played at Twickenham.  Don't get me wrong, it was great to see the cream of the southern hemisphere take to the pitch together, but surely some deal has to be brokered with the clubs in order to include the top players from the home nations?
Where was Kearney, O'Driscoll, Castrogiavanni and Harinordoquy?  All these players are world class and could justify their invitation to the Barbarians side.
I would have loved to watch Fourie du Preez, Matt Giteau and Jamie Roberts link up with the dazzling O'Driscoll, with Tommy Bowe making strong runs down the wing and Rob Kearney taking masterful command at full back.  Instead it was all a bit weird, as New Zealand's Joe Rokocoko lined up for the Barbarians and faced up to the haka whilst Tommy Bowe was nowhere in sight.

Also, if the Barbarians truly want to keep their magic and tradition then they really should be given the opportunity to play against full strength sides, not a second string version as was the case with New Zealand yesterday.  To give him his dues, All Black captain Richie McCaw demanded to play as he saw the game as a fitting end to the tour.  My question is: why was the majority of the New Zealand first choice side sitting and watching the game in the stands?  OK so it's the end of their season but the All Blacks don't play again until June/July next year, so why not let the team play?  This begs the question as to whether games like these are still as important in a calendar full of fixtures as they once were, or whether the tradition of the Baa-Baas is falling prey to the money making machine.

Hat trick hero and man of the match for the Barbarians, Bryan Habana doesn't think so:

"The Barbarians take us back to what rugby is really about - the friendship and camaraderie. This game was a fantastic spectacle."

Yes I agree Bryan, it was a good game, but somehow it felt like there was something missing.

Still, there's always the tradition of the socks...


  1. I think You'll find the AB's going pretty much straight into pre-season for the super 14 starting mid Febuary.

  2. Hi Leonidas, and thanks for your comment.

    I understand what you are saying but the players won't come together as the All Blacks again until June/July, and whilst they have the Super 14 to prepare for it was only one more game so why rest the big names?

    It's just a question really, as I would argue that games like this mean less if the Baa-Baas aren't given the opportunity to really test themselves against a full strength side. By fielding a second string side it seems that Graham Henry didn't think this game counted for much, which is a shame.

  3. I'd go further - for a BaaBaas match to really mean something (to me, at least) the team also should predominantly be selected from northern hemisphere players. Otherwise who cares that an Aussies and Boks combo beat the All Blacks reserves?
    More at

  4. I think the lack of NH players was due to most of them being back competitively for their clubs this weekend.

    Nice blog by the way! Just found it via 606

  5. No Argies, Canucks or Yanks? SOMEBODY from the Americas playing in Europe could have been picked.

  6. ps-That Gareth Edwards try was really special, wasn't it?

  7. The answers you seek are thus:

    fist and foremost, our coaches are dicks.

    second, we have sod all depth,(refer to point 1)

    third, the guys that should make up the b-team are up your end making a truck load of euros.

    this is why we have lost so many tests this year, due to arrogantly assuming we can blood new players at the highest level.

    the boys are over worked, a lot of them have been playing pretty much the whole year and need a break, even if they wanted to play. A few of the AB's have made themselves unavailable for the first 2-3 weeks of super 14

    enough of the rant, its all gray-me's fault, but we're stuck with him :(

  8. I finally had a chance to watch the match on Tape delay the other day, and a better name for the Baa-Baas would have been the Walla-Boks or the Springbies because of the heavy accent on Aussie and Saffa players.