Preview: Italy v South Africa

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 05:54
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NOVEMBER INTERNATIONAL SEASON: rugby365's acclaimed writer Paul Dobson gives us his unique insights into the Test between Italy and South Africa on Saturday.

You're as good as your last match, they say.

And the last match between these two countries ended in a first-ever win for Italy against South Africa, which means it was South Africa's first defeat against Italy in 13 matches between the two teams.

Done once, Italy will know they can do it again, while South Africa will surely be determined to avoid another humiliation.

Of the South African players who played in this match in Florence, four who started last year, start again this year - Francois Venter, Lodewyk de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Tendai Mtawarira.

There were others who were on the bench - Mbongeni Mbonambi, who is starting this time, Rudy Paige, props Steven Kitshoff and Trevor Nyakane, and Elton Jantjies.

For Italy only these will be starting again - Carlo Canna, Sergio Parisse with his 128 caps and Marco Fuser. Tommaso Boni and Simone Ferrari, who start this week and Edoardo Gori were on the bench while Francesco Minto has gone from starting to waiting.

That means that a year later only 16 of the 46 players are back in action. It is a game that starts anew.

Of the Italian squad of 23, 12 are from Benetton Treviso, a club once coached by Franco Smith, now a part of the Springbok coaching team. Another eight of the team play for Zebre. With 20 players from two clubs, both situated in the go-ahead north of Italy, it should be easy for the team to gel.

The game?

If it is as cold and wet as the weather forecast suggests expect kicking and forward physicality. Italy may well prefer that, and there is no doubt that unpleasant weather can cause upsets. But the match kicks off at three o'clock, easier for the players than the long, drawn-out day of the late Parisian start.

The Springbok loose forwards - Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Du Toit - may just be the most effective unit in the match.

* It's Padova in Italian, but this ancient city's name is Anglicised to Padua, just as Italia, Sicilia, Napoli, Roma, Firenzi, Vincenzia, Genova, Milano and Torino have their names Anglicised to Italy, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Genoa, Milan and Turin. It was the setting for Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, and he called it Padua - "fair Padua, nursery of arts". If it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me!

Players to Watch

For Italy: Of the backs, slender Carlo Canna with his skilful kicking and Tommaso Castello with his speed, acceleration and eye for a gap may well be the most worth watching. Also off the bench will be the Italy's flyhalf from Ireland, the man with only one eye and the first man to wear goggles in international rugby Ian McKinley, and when he comes on, obviously eager, your heart will swell with admiration and pride that this man can do this in this game.

For South Africa: Many will be hoping that exciting Warrick Gallant gets a good look in. He is a player to break a game open. He is not the only player who could have a telling effect off the bench for Steven Kitshoff, Franco Mostert and Daniel du Preez are men to make an impact.

Head to Head: The tight-five battle with Wilco Louw the best bet in the scrums and the Springboks' four line-out men. The Springboks would be expected to win the loose-forward battle. If they do, they are a long way to winning the match. Kicking could also be telling in the match and, on recent evidence, the Italian half backs could have a distinct advantage over the Springboks. The other side of kicking is also of critical importance - catching kicks. Here Springbok composure is suspect. Recent form suggests that Carlo Canna could well be a more effective goal-kicker than Handré Pollard, though Pollard's potential in this regard is vast.

Recent results

Tests between the two countries are comparatively recent. The Springboks had played Tests against 15 other teams before their first against Italy in 1995. South Africa have played in Padua before, also at the multipurpose, 21-year-old Stadio Euganeo. Vermeulen, Etzebeth, De Jager and Nyakane played that day.

2016: Italy won 20-18, Florence
2014: South Africa won 22-6, Padua
2013: South Africa won 44-10, Durban
2010: South Africa won 29-13, Witbank
2010: South Africa won 55-11, East London
2009: South Africa won 32-10, Udine
2008: South Africa won 26-0, Cape Town
2001: South Africa won 60-14, Port Elizabeth
2001: South Africa won 54-26, Genoa
1999: South Africa won 101-0, Durban
1999: South Africa won 74-3, Port Elizabeth

Prediction: Last week the Springboks beat France, while Italy lost to Argentina. It is hard to believe, last year notwithstanding, that the Springboks will be so devoid of pride, energy and determination that they will lose to a team whose only win in their last 11 matches was against Fiji down in Sicily. We think that, despite the weather, the Springboks will win by 12 points or more.

Teams

Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Matteo Minozzi.

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant.

Date: Saturday, 25 November 2017
Venue: Stadio Euganeo, Padua
Kick-off: 15.00 (16.00 SA time; 14.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Cold and wet. Rain, with a high of 10°C, dropping to 7°C
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com