South Africa centres Francois Venter and Rohan Janse van Rensburg both scored late tries as the Springboks rescued a 31-31 draw with the Barbarians in their European tour opener at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The Springboks were 31-19 down with nine minutes left in this non-cap clash before their midfield duo scored the last of the game’s 10 tries.
It took the Barbarians just five minutes to open the scoring when, following a cleanly won lineout, flyhalf Robert du Preez, one of four South Africans in the Barbarians starting XV, checked the Springbok defence with a ‘show and go’ before finding Blues fullback Melani Nanai who crossed at the corner.
Du Preez missed the conversion but the Barbarians were 5-0 up. South Africa, with just three forwards from the pack that played in their record 57-15 defeat by New Zealand in Durban last month, were soon on level terms.
In the 12th minute, lock Pieter- Steph du Toit surged through after winning ball at a line out.
Pat Lambie, captain of a South Africa side featuring nine uncapped players in the match day 23, missed the conversion.
In the 19th minute, the Baabaas turned over ruck ball deep in their own 22 and uncapped Highlanders wing Matt Faddes broke clear down the right touchline.
He regathered his chip, evading Springbok fullback Jesse Kriel and passed inside to Barbarians captain Andy Ellis, who scored an 80-metre tr y. Du Preez added the extras to put the Barbarians 12-5 in front.
South Africa, however, drew level four minutes later when, after Lambie had spurned a kickable penalty, blindside flanker Roelof Smit crossed from a close range line out.
Lambie converted and it looked as if the half would end level at 12-12. But in the 40th minute, after a burst by Nanai, Australia wing Taqele Naiyarovo went in at the corner for an unconverted try and a 17-12 lead for the Barbarians at the break.
Four minutes into the second half, though, the Springboks led for the first time in the match. New cap Van Rensburg, made a clever break that released wing Sergeal Petersen, whose angled run under the posts set up an easy conversion for Lambie.
But the Barbarians regained the lead in the 55th minute with a try and conversion, followed with another converted try in the 67th minute.
That gave the Barbarians breathing space at 31-19 but South Africa cut the lead to five points with nine minutes left when Venter crossed and then, in the 77th minute, Van Rensburg just did enough to stay in touch as he went in at the corner.
Lambie’s missed conversion left the match tied at 31-31.