Preview: Italy v South Africa
The Springboks travel from circumspect, understated England to spontaneous, exuberant Italy.
They head for the ancient city of Padua, from an orderly city to a city where history and the arts are obvious, a part of the miracle that is Italy.
Miracles are a part of the fabric of Italy – the miracles of ancient civilization's survivors, the miracle of natural beauty of the Alps and the Lakes, the miracle of Venice just to the east, the miracle of a nation's art in the land of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and many others. And the miracles of many saints to put things right.
If you have lost something, a prayer to St Anthony of Padua will find it. If your cat is sick, a prayer to St Francis Assisi will cure the cat. If you have a troublesome son, you pray to St Monica and he recovers to be a St Augustine.
Everywhere there are relics. Our Lady's wedding ring in Perugia. In Naples the blood of St Januarius, martyred at the age of 33, liquefies each year and Vesuvius leaves Naples alone. In Padua there are the tombs of St Matthias, the replacement apostle, and St Luke.
It is a land of miracles all right and to some the greatest miracle of all would be an Italian victory over the Springboks.
It's a tough request to St Anthony of Padua to find a victory for the Azzurri.
But still the twenty-year-old Stadio Euganeo will be packed to its 32 000 capacity, and those people will all be cheerful party-goers.
Italy have not had a great run of success in 2014, winning just one match in 10. That was this month against Samoa, but they followed this with a defeat against the Pumas of Argentina, admittedly by just two points, when they failed to score a try.
It is hard to see where they can beat the Springboks – except in the scrums, that is, and with an average of just eight scrums a Test, that does not seem a platform for success. The Azzurri are unlikely to dominate the Springboks who may also have greater speed about the field.
The Springboks may also have the upper hand when it comes to goal-kicking where Johan Goosen can kick further than Kelly Haimona and Pat Lambie at least as accurately.
Players to watch
For Italy: Sergio Parisse is always a man to watch, one of the most skilled and effective players in the world. Andrea Masi has not quite produced the form of a few years go but still has touches of attacking class. Then there is the hairy man – powerful Martín Castrogiovanni. Castrogiovanni and Parisse are two of the four Argentinian-born players in the side which team up with two born in Australia, two in South Africa and one each in New Zealand and Fiji. On the other hand Leonardo Ghiraldini and Marco Bortolami are local boys – both born in Padua.
For South Africa: The players to watch are those powerful duo of Duane Vermeulen and Marcell Coetzee and the effective halfback combination of Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach. An, oh, how you would long to see Bryan Habana with a serious chance to speed away!
Head to Head: The front rows. Here Italy look to be better off than the Springboks. It's hard to see Trevor Nyakane coping with Martín Castrogiovanni, who has given many an international prop a nightmare and on the other side Coenie Oosthuizen may find it an unequal struggle against Matias Aguero. Out wide the most interesting battle could be between the two young outside centres – the 21-year-old Michele Campagnaro and the 21-year-old Jan Serfontein.
2013: South Africa won 44-10, Durban
2010: South Africa won, East London
2010: South Africa won 29-13, Witbank
2009: South Africa won 32-10, Udine
2008: South Africa won 26-0 at Newlands
2001: South Africa won 54-26, Genoa
2001: South Africa won 60-14, Port Elizabeth
1999: South Africa won 101-0, Durban
1999: South Africa won 74-3, Port Elizabeth
1997: South Africa won 62-3, Bologna
1995: South Africa won 40-21, Rome
Prediction: It is difficult to find reasons for an Italian win. South Africa by about 15 points, unless a massive miracle happens and hubristic South Africa are plunged into the inertia of overconfidence. Both are sides emerging from an armour-plated cocoon of conservatism into the bright light of more expansive rugby and both are benefitting from it, the Springboks more successfully.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Eduardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Samuela Vunisa, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux.
Date: Saturday, 22 November 2014
Venue: Stadio Euganeo, Padua
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT; 16.00 SA time)
Expected weather conditions: Partly cloudy with a high of 14°C and a low of 4°C; no chance of rain.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
By Paul Dobson