Baa-Baas not black sheep for Collins

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jerry Collins may be one of rugby's leading attractions, but the big-hitting All Black is determined to stay in touch with his amateur roots with the debate over the Barbarians' role in the modern game resurfacing during the build-up to today's game against South Africa at Twickenham.

Collins eagerly accepted his invitation to play for the Barbarians, a decision made all the easier by the fact he has been on holiday in Britain since the All Blacks' quarter-final exit from the World Cup. During that time the 27-year-old interrupted his break to play for Barnstaple's second team and conduct a coaching session with the club's under-14 side.

The gesture underlined Collins' philosophy on the game and the Hurricanes No 8 is unconvinced by critics who claim that the Barbarians are an anachronism that should have died with the advent of professionalism.

"During your career you want to represent your country, win a World Cup and if you're lucky enough play for the Barbarians," he said.

"It's by invitation only and isn't one of those teams you can just join. They ask you to play because you're good enough to wear the strip. The ties with the amateur era are dying and it's difficult to get released for the Barbarians.

"But as long as guys are willing to jump on the plane and accept the invitation, I don't think the Barbarians will die. It's not that the players themselves are losing touch with their amateur roots.

"It's more that the professional climate dictates whether you get time to go back to where you came from. But it's always in your heart and you'll go back to your amateur club once the professional career is over. If I stopped getting paid for it then I would still play if the body could keep going."

Collins has yet to make any plans for his return to New Zealand and is in no hurry to leave the UK as the dust settles on the All Blacks' World Cup failure. But he admits his appearance for Barnstaple, an amateur club that competes in South West Two West, prompted concern from the rugby hierarchy back home.

"Staying over here you realise that maybe New Zealand is a bit nave. New Zealand thinks it's the only country that can play rugby," he said. "True, they love their rugby, but the people over here love it just as much. I've made no plans on when I'm going to head home I'm watching UB40 in Plymouth next Wednesday for starters.

"There's good surfing to be had in Croyde as well Devon's an easy place to be, there's loads to do. Anything to avoid facing the music when I get back to New Zealand! Some people weren't too happy when they found out I was playing for Barnstaple. It's worked out in a good way. In the professional era everything is about money."

Collins hopes to preserve the Barbarians' cavalier ethos today while toppling a South Africa line-up containing six World Cup winners including star wing Bryan Habana.

"The Springboks will want to finish the season on a high and we'll take a lot of pride in preventing that," he said. "We know we're representing a world famous club and the last thing we want to do is embarrass ourselves by not putting the effort in."

Barbarians: J Robinson (England); J Rokocoko (Blues & New Zealand), C Smith (Hurricanes & New Zealand), M Nonu (Hurricanes & New Zealand), I Neivua (Warriors & Fiji); M Giteau (Western Force & Australia), J Marshall (Ospreys & New Zealand); F Pucciarello (Munster & Italy), M Regan (captain, Bristol & England), S Ma'afu (Brumbies), B Cockbain (Wales), J Harrison (Ulster & Australia), R Elsom (Waratahs & Australia), M Williams (Cardiff & Wales), J Collins (Hurricanes & New Zealand). Replacements: S Brits (Stormers), J D Moller (Stormers), T Flavell (Blues & New Zealand), M Owen (Dragons & Wales), T Shanklin (Cardiff & Wales), P Grant (Stormers), B Cohen (England).

South Africa: R Pienaar, A Ndungane, J Fourie, F Steyn, B Habana, A Pretorius, E Januarie, C J Van der Linde, B Du Plessis, J Du Plessis, J Muller (capt), J Ackermann, S Burger, J Smith, R Kankowski. Replacements: T Liebenberg, H Van Der Merwe, A Van Den Berg, B Pieterse, W Olivier, W Julies, C Jantjes.

Referee: C Berdos (France).