- Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Steven Luatua look forward to representing the Barbarians against Fiji
- “There is a sell-out crowd, so we have a duty to entertain – but a result is what we will be after first of all” – Captain de Villiers
Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Steven Luatua have all enjoyed successful years on the arduous treadmill of Test rugby, but all three men are eager to cap off 2013 with a strong team performance for the Barbarians against Fiji on Saturday at Twickenham.
De Villiers has skippered the Springboks to 10 wins from 12 matches since June, their two defeats coming only to the all-conquering All Blacks.
Last weekend there was a first away win over France for 16 years, and the 32 year-old – who also captain’s Steve Hansen’s invitational from inside centre – explained how much of an honour it will be to run out in the Killik Cup.
Photo: Getty Images
“What makes the Barbarians so special is that you can only be asked to play for the team by invite and to be asked to captain is the cherry on top,” he said. “It’s a great team and a great bunch of guys involved and I’m looking forward to the game.
“You get to know the guys [from other countries] on a different level and share rugby philosophies too. The more we can do that, the more we can better the product that is out there and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved.
“Hopefully I can take a lot out of this and I can help one or two other guys as well. There is a sell-out crowd, so we have a duty to entertain – but a result is what we will be after first of all.”
The Barbarians squad to face the mercurial Pacific Islanders comprises almost entirely of players from Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa – Samoan centre Gavin Williams and veteran Irish lock Mick O’Driscoll completing the 23-man group.
Falling back on fond memories from his involvement in the 2009 team that beat New Zealand, du Plessis stressed that he was never likely to forgo another chance to pull on the famous black and white hoops.
“In the professional era, I think we’re really losing the personal touch,” the powerful hooker added. “That’s why whenever I get the opportunity to play for the Barbarians I never say no.
“You get to spend time with people outside of rugby and have a game with them on the weekend.”
Blindside flanker Luatua will line up alongside Auckland Blues teammates and electric wings Frank Halai and Charles Piutau.
Following something of a fairytale maiden year in international rugby – in which he has won his first 11 caps amid New Zealand’s run of 14 straight victories – the 22 year-old seemed extremely excited to feature.
Photo Credit Here
“I watched some [a Barbarians game] a few years ago and have wanted to be a part of it since then – there was a game in New Zealand that a few of the guys played in,” said Luatua.
“I guess I was jealous in a sense and wondered how I could be a part of it. Now I’m finally here, it feels pretty special.”
Fiji ran Italy close this month despite being reduced to 11 men at one stage, a match that came between twin wins over Portugal and Romania.
Saturday marks their centenary, and Luatua expected them to bring a typically fast, free-flowing approach to Twickenham.
“Fiji have an open style of game and if that’s what it comes down to – great. It’s exactly how I like to play. You might see me on those tramlines as well sometimes.”
Barbarians team to face Fiji: 15 Santiago Cordera, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Gavin Williams, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 TJ Perenara; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 3 Matias Diaz, 4 Manuel Carizza, 5 Dominic Bird, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Schalk Burger, 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Guillermo Ruan, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Mick O'Driscoll, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Willie le Roux.
There are still limited tickets available for Saturday's match. Head here for details.