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End of the Year Tour: Italy v South Africa Preview
The Springboks will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to England when they take on Italy on Sunday afternoon.
The Springboks penultimate game of 2016 pits them against a new-look Italian side who were hammered by the All Blacks last Saturday. The ‘Boks also come into this one off the back of a disparaging loss to England at Twickenham.
So which of these teams will bounce back from last weekend’s defeats?
Italy v South Africa | Saturday 19 November | Stadio Artemio Franchi | 15:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Italy 15/2 | Draw 45/1 | South Africa 1/20
Italy (+18.5) 9/10 | South Africa (-18.5) 9/10
Conor O’Shea’s tenure as Italian head coach got off to an even worse start Coetzee’s with the All Blacks running rampant out at the Stadio Olimpico last Saturday. In fairness to them, the Italians were always on a hiding to nothing with the All Blacks fired-up after their defeat to the Irish. And while the 68-10 scoreline is rather unflattering, it must be remembered that the New Zealanders put 57 past the Springboks just over a month ago.
There were a few encouraging signs for the Italians last week with their lineout functioning magnificently well under trying conditions. Their scrum was also top notch and they even managed to win one against the head.
The problem for the Italians though is the lack of quality backline players among their ranks. Sure, Australian–born Luke Mclean is a handy enough fullback. But he’s the exception rather than the rule.
If the Springbok backs finally manage to find some rhythm, then the Italians could spend the majority of Saturday afternoon chasing shadows.
It has been an extremely tough first year in charge for Allister Coetzee. A loss to an under-strength Irish in their June series opener was followed by two less than inspiring victories over the men from the Emerald Isle. The ‘Boks followed their poor June series showing up with an even worse Rugby Championship, in which they only managed to win two of their six matches.
Thought it couldn’t get worse? Well, it sure did last weekend. Having stolen into an early lead 6-0 lead, the ‘Boks looked like they may just be able to continue their 10-year unbeaten streak against England. The early points proved to be a bit of a false dawn, however, as England came storming back into the match through two first-half tries from winger Johnny May and recalled lock, Courtney Lawes.
England continued to press home their advantage in the second stanza with George Ford and Owen Farrell also getting their names on the try scorer's list. And while the ‘Boks did manage a late consolation try through Willie le Roux, it only helped add a bit of respectability to an already swollen scoreline.
Life does hand out a small mercy or two, and Allister Coetzee has certainly got one this weekend with his charges coming up against an Italian side who are about as threatening with ball in hand as a kitten playing with yarn.
It will be interesting to see how Coetzee alters his side for this one. While the Springbok mentor will want his team to put a huge score over Azzurri, he may be a bit reluctant to send out all his big guns – the ones that remain, that is – onto the Stadio Artemio Franchi with a game against Wales on the horizon.
One stalwart who is certain not to feature is Stormers lock, Eben Ethzebeth. The bruising second-rower sustained a concussion midway through the first half against England. His place in the side will either be taken by Lions man, Franco Mostert, or fellow Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, whose performance on the flank against England was one of his worst in a green and gold jumper.
I suspect Coetzee will make more changes to his starting XV with Johan Goosen likely to make a return to the full back berth. I also hope to see Rohan Janse Van Rensburg get a well-deserved international cap. This may not come to fruition however as Damian de Allende’s improved showing against England may sway Coetzee into opting to continue with De Allende in a bid to play the Stormers man into form.
The Stats That Matter
The Springboks have won all 12 clashes between the sides but they haven’t beaten Italy by more than 34 points in the last six games.
The Springboks have averaged 3.6 tries per game in the last six and their average winning margin in Italy has been 23 points.
Afternoon thunderstorms are being predicted by the local weather bureau which may play into the Italians hands.
Verdict: South Africa (-18.5) 9/10 The Italians are a work in progress and aren't likely to score many points. With that in mind, I reckon the Springboks on the minus 18.5 line is the way to go!