Springboks overcome horror week, run riot in Genoa to land thumping Italy win

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Kurt-Lee Arendse scoring for the Springboks against Italy.
Kurt-Lee Arendse scoring for the Springboks against Italy.
Roberto Bregani/Gallo Images

At the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa

The Springboks brought high-flying Italy down to earth with a bruising and dismissive 63-21 win at a cold and breezy Genoa on Saturday afternoon.

AS IT HAPPENED | Italy 21-63 South Africa

The Boks were hurting and when Italy, who came into the game on the back of three consecutive wins, stood up to them in the first half, they responded by running in 45 second-half points to re-establish their dominance.

The Boks have had plenty to deal with off the field - director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was banned in the week for his social media takes on match officials - but it didn't show as they initially seasoned the combative hosts in the first 40 minutes before flame-grilling them in the second stanza with a balanced display of pace, power, and panache.

The win, South Africa's first on the tour and their first since the Argentina success in late September, was a much-needed confidence booster ahead of next week's Test against England at Twickenham.

The Boks started fast, had a slight mid-first-half stutter, but took utter control in the second half to not only collect their biggest win of the season, but score the most tries in a game this year.

England will be far more stubborn, street-wise, and conditioned than Italy, but the Boks will have confidence.

The Boks were out of the blocks faster than how the national anthem was sung, with their first line-out and maul on their own feed in the second minute ending up in Kurt-Lee Arendse scoring in the left-hand corner.

The Boks have been blamed for not using their backs as efficiently as most nations, but a delayed and accurate pass from Damian Willemse created the necessary wide space for Arendse to score.

With the Boks playing from South to North, they were in the teeth of a moderate, but a very cold wind that swirled in the match-box-shaped stadium, finding distance on kicks was an issue on the small surface.

Italy, playing in front of a passionate crowd that was experiencing Test rugby in the city for the first time since 2014, regained their composure and through Allan's first penalty in the eighth minute, they clawed their way back.

Cheslin Kolbe, having missed the tough conversion from Arendse's try, landed a simple 10th penalty to give the Boks 8-3 lead.

Marvin Orie then mishandled the kick-off, from where Italy recycled quickly and scored through their exciting fullback Ange Capuozzo in the 11th minute.

Italy, through some tenacious defending and some enterprising rugby, kept the Boks pinned down in their half and took a deserved 13-8 lead in the 22nd minute through a second Allan penalty.

The Boks then went to work with some smart rugby of their own to get back into Italy's half and they were rewarded with points.

Kolbe banged over a 26th-minute penalty to push the Boks to within two and four minutes later, Bongi Mbonambi broke away from a maul and scored to give the Boks a five-point lead.

It should have been more as they bossed the last 10 minutes of the half, but they fluffed a lineout in the 38th minute, and still won a turnover, but conceded a penalty to allow Italy some respite before the break.

The Boks had the wind at their backs and despite conceding a 45th-minute Allan penalty, they responded with a wonderful try through Kolbe a minute later

The winger not only chased down Willemse's deep, hanging restart, but caught it and crashed over the line.

He injured his hamstring in the process and took no further part in the game, but that allowed Manie Libbok to get a longer audition.

Three minutes later, Arendse was in for his second as the Boks initially took the hosts east and west, before venturing south and silencing the packed South stand.

Libbok goaled the difficult touchline conversion to get his first Test points, but had a simpler one six minutes later when Kwagga Smith crashed over close to the poles.

In those 15 minutes, Italy had moved from being two points behind the Boks to trailing 37-16.

Libbok's entry moved Willemse to wing, but it made no discernible difference as the Boks simply ran riot.

The try that probably meant the most to the Boks was Malcolm Marx's 63rd-minute try from a rolling maul.

The maul has been well countered by the Boks' opponents on the tour and represents an improvement on that front ahead of next week's Twickenham examination.

It also helped silence the partisan crowd that, to its credit, was a sporting and hospitable one.

There were sporadic chants of 'Italia, Italia' ringing out as the crowd felt the Boks' on-field pressure, but they bounced back through a 66th-minute try from Lorenzo Cannone.

It was a beautifully worked touchdown as they worked their way up the field assiduously before a chip-kick in behind the Bok defence caught them short.

The Boks didn't get their line away easily, but when Cannone scored, the crowd exploded, but not for long.

The visitors got ball in hand and scored through Steven Kitshoff, leaving the crowd aghast in disbelief, but the Boks weren't done.

After witnessing replacement win Edoardo Padovani being stretchered off with what looked like a head/neck injury in the 70th minute, the Bok sauntered into Italy's 22 and scored through Willemse.

Cobus Reinach put the cherry on top with a 79th-minute try that pushed the scored past 60, with the Boks then engaging in the long-lost tradition of wearing opposition jerseys straight after the game when they did their post-match stadium ovation.

Twickenham, though, won't be this hospitable.

 Scorers

Italy: 21 (13)

Tries: Ange Capuozzo, Lorenzo Cannone

Conversion: Tommaso Allan

Penalties: Allan (3)

South Africa: 63 (18)

Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), Bongi Mbonambi, Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Damian Willemse, Cobus Reinach

Conversions: Kolbe, Manie Libbok (4)

Penalties: Kolbe (2)

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