International Rugby: Italy vs South Africa Preview

Italy will be hoping for a repeat of last year's Test reslut against South Africa when these two countries do battle in their end-of-year Test in Padova on Saturday the 25th of November.

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Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Stadio Euganeo, Padova
Kick-Off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Italy will be hoping for a repeat of last year's Test result against South Africa when these two countries do battle in their end-of-year Test in Padova on Saturday.

The 2016 encounter between these sides was a historical one for the Azzurri as their 20-18 victory in Florence was their first ever triumph over the two-time world champions since the first encounter between these teams in 1995.

Despite that memorable win, Italy have struggled in 2017 and they head into this fixture having won just one of their 10 Tests this year.

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea, who has been on the winning side in just four of his 16 Tests in charge of the Azzurri, feels his side are making strides under his guidance.

"The first thing you do is gain everyone's respect and I think, slowly, we are beginning to do that," he told Reuters. 
And although results haven't gone their way in 2017, O'Shea his side has improved since that win over the Boks in 2016. 
We are a lot further down the road," he added. 
I am probably more excited now than when I arrived because we can really begin to see things are happening. 
There's so much we have to do but there's been a lot of hard graft."

Meanwhile, South Africa have delivered a mixed bag of results in 2017. They started off the year with a string of impressive performances and after claiming a 3-0 series victory over France in South Africa, they kickstarted their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back wins over Argentina.

They then secured a 23-23 draw with Australia in Perth but things went pear-shaped against New Zealand in Albany where they suffered a 57-0 defeat - the worst result in the history of Springbok rugby.

They bounced back from that humiliation by claiming another draw against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein before delivering arguably their best performance of the year in a 25-24 loss to the All Blacks in Cape Town.

But despite that impressive showing, their world came crashing down again when Ireland beat them 38-3, in their opening Test of their end of year tour, before scraping past France in a narrow 18-17 triumph in Paris last weekend.

The Boks' inability to deal with high kicks cost them dearly against Ireland and France as they conceded tries in both those Tests after thier opponents used  that tactic.

Coetzee admitted that he there is plenty of room for improvement from his side and said he expects an aerial bombardment from the Azzurri as well.
"In these Test matches you're looking at keeping the opposition out, and the one way you can do that is to be very calculated in terms of not conceding penalties," he explained.
"Italy has a great driving maul and you can only get to a driving maul from a lineout. And you get to a lineout when you concede penalties and they get a touch-finder. It is a massive focus for us.
"The other big step up we'd like to make is how we deal with 80 minutes of contestable kicks. Every game we have conceded a try. We want to focus completely on handling it well and dealing with it and making sure that the players around the catcher are in a position to take charge."

Players to watch: 

For Italy: If Italy want to stand any chance of repeating their heroics from last season's corresponding fixture, much will depend on the performance of their fly-half, Carlo Canna. As the team's chief playmaker, Canna will be expected to lead the way in unlocking the Boks' defence. He will also have to be on song with his goalkicking and this aspect of his game could have a huge bearing on this Test's end result.

For South Africa: After coming into the Springboks' run-on side against France last weekend, inside centre Francois Venter grabbed his opportunity with both hands and delivered a solid performance. That would have boosted his confidence and he will be determined to build on that showing. Although he is playing in a less preferred position - he usually starts at inside centre - Venter's ability to straighten the line and create opportunities for his outside backs is one of his strengths and he will be determined to hit the ground running in this encounter.

Head-to-head: The duel at the base of the scrum between Italy's captain, Sergio Parisse, and South Africa's Duane Vermeulen will be one of the highlights of this Tests as both are very influential for their respective teams. Although they are different types of players - with Parisse relying more on his ball skills with Vermeulen preferring the more direct approach - they will be expected to get their respective sides over the gainline with strong carries and also be at the forefront on defence.

Previous results:

2016: Italy won 20-18 in Florence
2014: South Africa won 22-6 in Padua
2013: South Africa won 44-10 in Durban
2010: South Africa won in East London
2010: South Africa won 29-13 in Witbank
2009: South Africa won 32-10 in Udine
2008: South Africa won 26-0 in Cape Town
2001: South Africa won 54-26 in Genoa
2001: South Africa won 60-14 in Port Elizabeth
1999: South Africa won 101-0 in Durban
1999: South Africa won 74-3 in Port Elizabeth
1997: South Africa won 62-3 in Bologna
1995: South Africa won 40-21 in Rome

The 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 (c), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 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 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 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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