All eyes on forward battle

2014-11-22 00:00

A FEW years ago, a clash against Italy would probably be notched down as a win before the match even kicked off.

But, if this Northern Hemisphere tour is anything to go by, the Italians are ­going to put up a big fight against the Springboks this afternoon.

All eyes will be on the forward battle. The Italian scrum is particularly powerful and they passed a difficult test in that department against Argentina last weekend, despite narrowly losing 18-20.

The Boks have a new-look front row with props Trevor Nyakane and Coenie Oosthuizen in the starting XV. They have a unique opportunity to prove themselves as suitable replacements to Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis leading into the World Cup next year.

Nyakane faces a baptism of fire in his first Test start against the legendary tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni. The Bok loosehead will have to work hard to hold up the Italian and Leicester ­Tigers stalwart.

The biggest clash of the day is between the men at the back of the scrum. Both Duane Vermeulen and Sergio Parisse are considered among, if not the best, eighthmen in the modern game.

Vermeulen’s abrasive style contrasts against Parisse’s impressive skill set. But the two mammoth loose forwards are sure to lock horns at some point during the match and both excel in free-flowing games as well as tight, forward-oriented clashes.

Springbok half-backs Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach need to prove they can perform consistently this weekend after good showings against England. Most importantly, they will need to kick accurately to turn the Italian pack around and put pressure on their back three.

Another exciting prospect is Johan Goosen at fullback. Previously a specialist flyhalf, Goosen has a chance to prove his worth as a versatile back. He has plenty of experience around him with JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana on either wing and he can always fall back on his massive boot if he is in trouble.

The Boks may well have the ­ascendancy in the midfield, with Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein constantly improving their understanding of each other.

Expect to see Nizaam Carr make his debut off the bench as Bok coach ­Heyneke Meyer will be keen to see him step up to Test match level. With so much competition among the Bok ­loosies, Carr will have to produce a ­quality performance.

The Boks take on Italy at 4 pm today in Padova, Italy. The match is telecast on SS1 from 3 pm.

South Africa (15-1): Johan Goosen, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Duane Vermeulen, Teboho Mohoje, Marcell Coetzee, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane.Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Julian Redelinghuys, Lood de Jager, Nizaam Carr, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Willie le Roux.

Italy (15-1): Andrea Masi, Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Luke McLean, Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori, Sergio Parisse (captain), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni, Joshua Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matias Aguero. Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Marco Bortolami, Francesco Minto, Guglielmo Palazzani, Luciano Orquera, Giulio Toniolatti.

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