The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0

The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0 on a day when Stefan Terblanche scored five tries on the wing, and indeed the average result in the 10 matches to date between the countries has been 55-13 to the Boks, but anybody who is expecting Italy to roll over at Kings Park tomorrow is sorely mistaken.

The Azzurri have come a long way in recent years thanks to their exposure in Six Nations rugby and a few months back they beat France and Ireland, and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was in the stands at Twickenham when England were given the fright of their lives before defeating the Italians by seven points.

That said, the Boks are obviously expected to win and it is a question of how much, with respect to Italy. The chances of an upset of the century would be that much higher if this game was played in Rome, but it is Kings Park and the Italians are surely a touch fatigued now that the marathon Northern Hemisphere season is winding up.

They have their share of world class players, notably talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, and the opportunity to watch this truly world class player is alone worth turning up or tuning in. But the man that the TV cameras love, the stocky, hirsute and bearded battler that is Martin Castrogiovanni, has been restricted to a role off the bench because he picked up a niggle playing for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions in Hong Kong last week.

His opposite number, Beast Mtawarira, might secretly be pleased.

We all know about how well Castrogiovanni and company scrum, it is their trademark, and like the Boks they are no slouches at the driving maul, but it is their improved attack under new coach Jacques Brunel, that has most impressed Heyneke Meyer.

“They carried the ball more times than any other team in the Six Nations,” the Bok coach said. “I am not trying to do a PR job on them when I tell you that they almost beat England in London by keeping the ball.”

This is a reflection on the change of tack from Brunel. His predecessor, Nick Mallett, who once employed Meyer as his Bok forwards coach, funnily enough, had Italy playing a conservative game that was probably about keeping the score down. It was not about expression, but Brunel has induced the old Italian fire in his charges and a team that beat 2011 World Cup finalists France has to be keenly respected. And Ireland are hardly pushovers either.

Yesterday, Italy’s Australian-born winger, Luke Mclean, was a popular target at the Italians’ team announcement given his obvious ability to speak English, and he calmly said that Italy were confident that they would win. True story.

“We are not here on holiday,” the Brisbane product said. “We are here to beat the Springboks. We will have to put our best foot forward from one to 23, but we know that on our day we can step up and play against the best teams in the world. We have to go out and be confident. If you go out expecting to lose, there is only going to be one result, and we are confident that we can get the result we want. We have beaten two of the best teams in the world this year and believe that if we go out there and play our own style of rugby, and back ourselves to compete over the whole 80 minutes, we can win this one.”

Good on cobber McLean. Spoken with true digger spirit, but do they really believe they can win? It would appear so.

“You must understand that this is no ordinary end of season tour for us,” Mclean said. “Fatigue is not a question. We consider playing against the Boks an honour and it is something we would never take for granted. We have three games in this quadrangular competition to finish of what has been a good season for us. We don’t want to render what we did in the Six Nations a waste of time.

“We are pitching up to play and win, not to make up the numbers,” Mclean concluded with sincerity.

But the Boks know this. Meyer is no fool and he will have been talking up the opposition all week to his players. And the coach knows that the reality is that a correctly focussed Springbok team should never, ever lose at home to Italy.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

Kick-off: 5.15pm.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Italy : 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Alberto di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto de Marchi.

Substitutes: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Tobias Botes, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Iannone.

by Mike Greenaway

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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