Springboks

Springboks look to bury Italy demons

Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Milan - South Africa return to Italy for the first time on Saturday since their historic defeat by the Azzurri in Florence in November 2016, which coach Allister Coetzee called the darkest moment of his career.

READ: Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward

The 54-year-old Coetzee knows that his future could depend on how the Springboks perform in the north-eastern city of Padua, not far from Venice.

At the time of Italy's historic 20-18 victory it had looked that Coetzee would not see out 2016, but he survived and has rebuilt a squad which in Italy has just five players from that fateful day last November.

The Springboks arrive in Italy after bouncing back from a record 38-3 drubbing by Ireland two weeks ago by edging France 18-17 in Paris last Saturday.

Coetzee knows how motivated Italy - coached by Irishman Conor O'Shea - will be to prove that last autumn's victory was no fluke.

"We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge," said Coetzee. "However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

"It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions," said Coetzee, who has won just ten of 23 Tests since taking the helm in 2016.

Skipper Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the giant lock shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

Flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit returns from concussion suffered in the Ireland mauling as hooker Bongi Mbonambi makes his first start after 12 caps off the bench in place of Malcolm Marx, who has a shoulder injury.

Chiliboy Ralepelle replaces Mbonambi on the bench with uncapped back Warrick Gelant preferred to Damian de Allende amongst the replacements.

"It's part of our history. I'm not interested in it. We are focused on our future and our future is South Africa on Saturday in Padua," said O'Shea, the architect of the famous victory in his first year in Italy.

"It will be a very, very tough game. They are a better team than a year ago. But we are also ourselves."

Italy ended a series of nine consecutive defeats going back to their win over South Africa by winning their opening November Test against Fiji 19-10 in Sicily, but lost the second 31-15 in Florence to Argentina.

"I'm sure we can be very competitive on Saturday against the Springboks if our focus is the right one," said the former Harlequins coach.

"The Springboks are a great team, a month ago they were about to beat All Blacks. It is true that they have struggled a lot against Ireland but over the past week have defeated France.

"But, as always, we have to think about ourselves, our performance, and not the opponents: we have great players in every role, just like them. We will have to repeat the high level performance last week, concretising in the right moments.

"We want to close this 2017 with a performance that will make our fans proud of this national team."

Flanker Giovanni Licata will make his first start for Italy as O'Shea made two changes.

Licata, who has won two caps off the bench, replaces Francesco Minto while the other change sees Angelo Esposito replace Leonardo Sarto on the right wing.

Under O'Shea they have won only four of 21 Tests and three of those were against tier-two nations.

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

Substitutes: 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 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

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