Boks power past hapless Azzurri
MATCH REPORT: South Africa had no trouble in disposing if Italy in Padua on Saturday, winning 35-6 in a rain-soaked encounter.
It would be pleasant to think that the sins of Florence 2016 were washed away in the wet of Padua 2017. Conditions looked to suit Italy - rain, Alpine cold, a field eight metres narrow, but it did not work for an Italian side set on losing - their 11th defeat in the 12 matches since Florence 2016.
The result was back to the pre-2014 usual when Springbok victories were comfortable. This one was comfortable - five tries to nil. Italy enjoyed 60% of possession and 66% of territory but they lacked the class to score even one try. Tommaso Castello had a promising break late in the second half but that was it for Italian creativity in a city Shakespeare spoke of as "fair Padua, nursery of arts". Italy showed no artistry.
They played a game of multitudinous phases, one-pass phases, phases going nowhere. And their high kicks were mostly good if unprofitable. It was sad to see player of the calibre of Sergio Parisse, one of the greats of modern rugby, running with great courage and not getting past the first tackle.
With less ball the Springboks did far more. They had backs who would run, especially Francois Venter, who knows about straight. They had three five-metre line-outs and produced two tries. Italy had three five-metre line-outs for no tries.
Italy scored first. A kick taken into touch by the Springboks gave them a five-metre line-out followed by a five-metre penalty which Carlo Canna goaled. 3-0 after 10 minutes.
Italy's lead lasted four minutes and they did not get it back again in the match. Those 10 minutes, following Canna's kick-off, belonged to Italy.
Then it was South Africa's turn to kick off and they attacked. Venter broke sharply down the left and they then went right where Handré Pollard's dummy bluffed the Italians,. He was tackled short of the line but Francois Louw picked up and stretched for the try, which Pollard converted. 7-3 after 14 minutes.
Italy had the kick-off and it was their turn to attack. From an attacking line-out, they got close and Lood de Jager was penalised. 7-6 after 19 minutes.
South Africa kicked off and it was their turn to attack. They did the phase thing and a penalty, taken by Pollard, gave them a five-metre line-out. They threw to De Jager, mauled and scored a try credited to Bongi Mbonambi, his first Test try. Pollard converted from far out. 14-6 after 24 minutes.
At this stage Tendai Mtawarira, who had earlier been attended to, hobbled off with help, replaced by Steven Kitshoff who had an excellent game.
Venter had two more runs, one off a Louw turnover and one from a cleverly overthrown line-out. From this latter one, the Springboks set up phases and were on their right when the referee announced that he was playing advantage. Pollard kicked a lofted diagonal kick to the left, which the Italians could not control but Venter did as he surged over for his first Test try, to his obvious delight. Pollard converted from far out., 21-6 after 33 minutes.
The Springboks kicked off for the second half and so had another chance to attack. They used two penalties to have a five-metre line-out, threw deep and mauled quickly for a first Test try by Kitshoff. 28-6 after 44 minutes.
For 34 minutes after that there was no scoring. - lots of changes of personnel but no scoring. Warrick Gelant came on for Courtnall Skosan. It was the promising Gelant's first cap.
Apart from Castello's break the match settled down to umpteen Italian phases that the Springboks had no trouble containing.
Italy were penalised in front of their posts. The Springboks opted for a scrum. From it Elton Jantjies was quickly close to the line. The Springboks played to the forwards and Franco Mostert surged over under the posts. Jantjies converted. 35-6 with two minutes to play.
Italy were keen to attack but a kick was marked by Andries Coetzee and kicked out to end the match.
Man of the Match: Italy's best was probably Giovanni Licata, a big 20-year-old flank playing just his second match. The most obvious South African candidates are Handré Pollard, Francois Venter an d our choice Steven Kitshoff who does all a prop has to do and in addition tackles and carries well.
Moment of the Match: The ceremonies at the start as the tracksuited Springboks were backed up in their anthem by an adult choir while the Italians were helped by a soprano, a youth choir and all the crowd, many of whom were in fancy dress and who roundly applauded Tendai Mtawarira when the went off.
Villain of the Match: Nobody - unless it was the weather.
Pens: Canna 2
For South Africa:
Tries: Louw, Mbonambi, Venter, Kitshoff, Mostert
Cons: Pollard 4, Jantjies
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.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)