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Murray Swart and SAPA
Despite being the underdogs, Barbarians Southern region coach Jimmy Stonehouse is upbeat about his side’s encounter against England here today.
Even though England only arrive here this morning, and it is essentially their weekday side, they are still seen as favourites as many of their players are contesting for spots in the team for the second Test against the Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Baabaas, drawn from players representing Boland, Eastern Province, SWD Eagles and Border, have only been able to spend a few days training together.
“Nobody gives us a chance to win this game, but that just adds to our motivation to do well,” Stonehouse yesterday.
“But, luckily, the guys playing for the Baabaas are professional rugby players and know what to expect.
“I feel that the game plan is set and everything is going according to plan. We just have to go and set it in motion.”
England have included the burly loose trio of Thomas Waldrom, Carl Fearns and James Haskell and look to dominate at the breakdown.
They pose a huge threat to Jacques Engelbrecht, Shaun Raubenheimer and Mpho Mbi-yozo and the latter will hope to secure possession before thinking about competing on the ground.
“If you look at the team that England have chosen, their eighthman, Waldrom, and flanker, Haskell, are very physical and they will definitely take the fight to us,” said Stonehouse. “It’s going to be a very physical battle. We’ll have to stop those guys in their tracks otherwise they’ll be a huge problem.”
Stonehouse said he expected more of what the visitors dished out in the first Test, with a dash of running rugby added in the mix.
“I don’t think they will differ much from what they did against the Springboks,” he said. “It is the same squad that is training and the mentality will be the same.
“They could play a little bit more high-risk rugby because they don’t rate the Barbarians very highly and they will think there will be more places to run the ball from. And that’s where they can make mistakes.
“It won’t be easy coming here to run the ball the whole time. We hope the altitude will play in our favour.
“We want to run the ball from everywhere possible and make the game as fast as possible. The weather conditions will be very different for England to do what they are used to.
“We play a lot more running rugby, while they are more physical and kick the ball a whole lot more.”
England may have had their egos bruised on Saturday – when they lost 22-17 to the Boks in the first Test – and clearly they will want to at least beat the Barbarians.
“But I think they may underestimate us and this could also lead to mistakes,” said Stonehouse.
“Our guys will be out to prove themselves so we will need to capitalise on all our chances.”