Cape Town - South African-born former Italy lock Carlo del Fava says the current Springbok side cannot be compared to teams of the past.
Del Fava, who played 54 Tests for Italy between 2004 and 2011, spoke exclusively to Sport24 ahead of Saturday’s Test between the Azzurri and the Springboks in Padova.
When probed about what he thought of the current Springbok side under the coaching tutelage of Allister Coetzee, Del Fava’s response was less than flattering.
“I played against the Springboks on three occasions between 2008 and 2010. The Bok team I faced to the one now is a different animal altogether,” De Fava said.
“By all accounts, it was a different era of player. It was very difficult to stop that Springbok team and the bottom line was that they could raise their game against any opponent.”
The 36-year-old questioned the Springbok coach’s selections.
“The maturity level of the Bok teams I faced was vastly different to the playing personnel Allister Coetzee has selected. From a physical perspective, I don’t believe the current Springbok side is one of the weakest I have seen turn out for the men in green and gold. However, tactically and technically the current custodians of the jersey leave a lot to be desired,” Del Fava continued.
“My former Italy coach Nick Mallett described the Springboks post the French Test as being ‘technically poor’ and he has a point to be honest. Tactically and in terms of mentality there is a vast difference between the Springboks then and now. During the era of Bismarck du Plessis, Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers among others, the Boks knew how to adapt to each situation whenever they were under pressure. And, when rivalling South Africa, there wasn’t a methodological game plan sequence that you could follow.”
Regarding solutions for the Springboks, Del Fava replied: “The current Bok team is still experiencing teething problems because they haven’t found the correct combinations. Physically, they have shown that they can stand up to every single team but, from a tactical point of view, I feel that their preparation could be so much better. For argument’s sake, often during a Test match I see them exiting from the left hand corner with a left-footed kicker. As a former player and current pundit, I can see it playing out and I think to myself: 'Surely the players should know not to do that?!'. You have to wait, set up the players, get the right-footed kicker in place and then exit properly. Having once been in the arena, I can understand it from a player’s perspective in the sense that you sometimes do things on the field which aren’t from the textbook, but the devil is in the detail.”
Del Fava also questioned Coetzee's use of substitutions during games.
“Coetzee mustn’t just make changes at the hour mark for change’s sake. Changes mustn’t be prescribed. Against Ireland, he took off Beast Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx for what reason I couldn’t understand whatsoever. Those two players were doing the most damage, but they were pulled from the field and, all of a sudden, the scrum creaked and the lineout didn’t operate optimally. If Coetzee can leave his best players on the field and let them keep working, the Springboks will get better. There is no reason to withdraw these super-athletes because they are fit enough to play two matches of rugby in a row. It’s imperative to keep them on the field, let them grow together and allow combinations to flourish.”