Barbarians Rugby is a recognized club in World Rugby. The multi-national team plays occasionally, with invitations to players and coaching staff, in an often ‘festival’ game that always (appears to) bring out the best in players.
The above video was produced by the Barbarians Rugby (Barbarian FC) club who were established in 1890. A team that when assembled, has more often displayed a style of rugby union that is expressive, full of invention and always brings out the best in players.
That was exhibited best when during the pre-game preparations, rugby fans witnessed a more than animated South Africa lock, Lood de Jager. A looming individual, more often seen in the tight five – but when allowed the freedom and relaxed environment of Barbarians Rugby, he is animated and encourages others in a way few have seen the big man openly expressing himself.
It’s a minute before the Barbarians leave the dressing room to take on Argentina.
No huddle or stern words.
And South Africa's Lood de Jager going crazy 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/uYmNFVGGAk
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 1, 2018
If the observation is true of this one player, then more examples are easily found. Over the years, a number of players have flourished in the welcoming environment. So, what is the secret?
Barbarians Rugby FC always brings out the best in Players
When playing International rugby, the pressure is intense. At times, the struggle to win, to overcome another nation, is at players limits. Asked to put more than everything into the group cause, it can bring huge rewards but, it can also represent lows and defeats that are taken personally.
The anti-modern processes and friendly culture of Barbarians rugby is one of involvement. Not goal-based on winning or on maintaining a World Rugby ranking. It is a team where values are based on friendship, bringing opponents together and; in relation to competition, on ‘enjoying the occasion no matter the result’.
— Killik & Co (@KillikandCo) November 29, 2018
Possibly, that remark made by 2018 captain Wyatt Crockett stated it best. The former All Black was a sentimental choice – recently retired from International rugby – in a nod to his respected place in the game. Men like Crockett are afforded that place, from their exploits toward the game.
His naming follows a time honoured tradition with the Baabaas, of signaling out unrecognized International and high performing domestic players. Given a field and a place to show their skills, most put their best foot forwars – for some, it might be the highest stage they can perform on, so why not display your absolute best.
The club allows players to wear their own club or franchise socks; a nod to the grassroots of the sport and the amateur era, where representation went before a reward. The Baabaas retain those traditions, and the result is often secondary to the relationship with players and fans.
Everything to Win, Less to Lose – Baabaas rugby
Less to lose (even though losing is never a desired outcome) but in Barbarians rugby, the team has everything to win. They are the one team who have the least amount of expectation on their shoulders; even though some rugby fans support them over their our nation, due to the longheld respect and admiration this team has earned.
That comes from the entertainment that has come from matches played in the United Kingdom predominantly. This invitational team has been playing national sides on a regular basis since 1948, and defeating them. The Baabaas beat England, in their May fixture for the Killick Cup.
With a number of matches played offshore, they have entertained fans in places as varied as Nairobi, Hong Kong and Sydney, the International element has always brought an aspect of unpredictability. From the earliest matches, where the best of the home nations players were selected, the invitations soon included players from nations like South Africa.
In this latest match-up against Argentina , with Rassie Erasmus as coach, the majority of the team were from the Springboks. It meant that from Lood de Jager, to Schalk Britz, and recently celebrated World Rugby Awards ‘Rookie of the Year’ winner, Aphiwe Dyantyi.
And beside them, stood Elton Jantjes. The oft-criticized first five, he substituted Handre Pollard, and with the game finely balanced in Argentina’s favour, the Lions pivot stood firm, and slotted the first drop goal by a Baabaas player in 24 years.
— SARugbyChick (@SARugbyChick) December 1, 2018
Result aside, it was; and forever will be, in the attitude and manner in how the Barbarians play the game. With their heart on their sleeve. Their love for the game of rugby, and in the freedom of expectation, they often upset International rugby teams.
On Saturday, it was no different. For a team that always brings out the best in it’s players, the Barbarians Rugby club is what the values of the sport should epitomize. Friendship, fair play and the freedom to express yourself.