Cape Town – Juan Manuel Leguizamon has been promised a starting role for the Barbarians against Argentina in Saturday’s Killik Cup encounter at Twickenham.
The Pumas legend takes on his international teammates for the first time as part of an invitation side made up of eight different nationalities.
The bulk of the squad come from South Africa side but head coach Rassie Erasmus insists he is taking a multicultural approach — and one that puts entertainment and enjoyment at the top of the list.
The last Barbarians side did so emphatically against England with nine tries that included a Chris Ashton hat-trick in a record 63-45 win.
«The Barbarians is a different style and we asked all the boys what we should do,” said Erasmus.
«It’s definitely a specific brand but it’s not linked to a specific country. We’d like to entertain, to enjoy it, to have fun and be really competitive against Argentina so it’s Test match rugby. It will be a mix of all these players, Juan Leguizamon, Wyatt Crockett, all the rest, and put together in one week.»
Leguizamon, New Zealand prop Crockett and Italy wing Tommaso Benvenuti have 211 international caps between them.
And rising stars like Fiji’s Frank Lomani, Tonga’s Leon Fukofuka and Australia’s Luke Jones will all be aiming to force their way into the starting line-up — and increase the global feel.
«When we compiled the team we wouldn’t want to have 17 Springboks in it,” said Erasmus, twice invited to play for the club but injured on each occasion.
“The whole thing about the Barbarians is to bring all these cultures together and that’s why it’s so well supported.
“It’s great to have a guy like Leguizamon, with all his experience, on the field. He’s definitely going to start the game for us.
«He’s 35 and we can say thank you to this guy because of how he’s served his country, how he’s served rugby and how he carries himself. It’s wonderful to have him in the team.»
The role of chief sideline supporter and water carrier is an exclusively South African job, though, carried out by giant Springboks’ lock Eben Etzebeth.
«He wants to be here — he wants to be part of it,” said Erasmus.
«He’s probably the biggest team mascot in the world and he’s paying his own way just to be with the boys. He desperately wanted to play for us.»
The Killik Cup match is also a final top tier appearance for referee John Lacey, who Erasmus worked alongside during his coaching spell in Limerick.
“I know it’s John Lacey’s last game and I really rate him,” he said.
«I worked at Munster and know what he meant to Munster as a player, I know what he means to World Rugby in terms of his refereeing and it’s going to spice it up even more for a guy to retire in such a nice way. It won’t be a friendly but we want an open, enjoyable game.”