Boks come through after lacklustre performance

2014-11-23 00:25

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The Springboks battled to suppress a spirited Italian side, ranked far below them on the world pecking order, and again slid into the sludgy disorder that had cost them their first game on tour against Ireland.

In the end it took two brilliant incursions by Willie le Roux, after he replaced Johan Goosen, to swing the tide.

Soon after he came on in the 56th minute, Le Roux spotted the gap and made the running for Cobus Reinach’s try; and with seconds to go, it was again the attack-minded fullback who ensured a better complexion to the score line.

Le Roux sprinted through an opening before putting Handré Pollard (who had replaced Patrick Lambie) away and the young pivot made a brilliant wide pass to get Bryan Habana away for yet another try in the Springbok jersey.

But it was not a convincing performance by Jean de Villiers and his men.

They allowed the Italians to get under their skins, failed to come to terms with the referee’s baffling rulings and made too many errors to engender the kind of confidence that existed after they had beaten the All Blacks at Ellis Park not too long ago.

Italy’s “Azzurri” had switched to “bianco” for the game but they were not about to wave the white flag, piling into the Boks with gusto and showing a willingness to carry the ball.

The rejigged Bok side fielded by Heyneke Meyer lacked cohesion and again slipped into a tendency to be too individualistic, especially in view of the “anything goes” policy French referee Jérôme Garcés was applying at the breakdown.

The match official seemed to have reinvented the laws governing the tackled ball and, frustratingly for the Boks, allowed the Italians far more liberties.

The Italians got the first points of the match in what for them was the perfect manner as they won a penalty after disrupting South Africa’s scrum – Kelly Haimona slotting the kick.

But just four minutes later, Lambie brought up his 100th point (in 39 tests) in the Springbok jersey to level the scores.

The Boks could not bring the necessary accuracy to bear – missing line-out throws and making poor passes in promising situations – and even their opening try by Coenie Oosthuizen failed to instil the necessary urgency.

The big prop confirmed his coach’s belief that his ball-carrying ability makes him a valuable asset as he crashed through on an angle and reached out to place the ball over the line.

Backed by a vociferous crowd, it had been expected the Italians would play with great resolve early on but with skipper Sergio Parisse setting a fine individual example, the home side’s determination held and they were just 6-8 down at the break.

Reinach’s try came just as the game was entering the last quarter and Habana scored from long range with just 30 seconds left on the clock in a far from convincing showing.

It is said that in test rugby a win is a win – Italy have now lost all 12 matches they have played against the Springboks since the first in 1995 – but the Boks lacked composure, got involved in little personal battles, allowed their concentration to flag and looked everything but the second best side in the world.

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