Springboks in desperate need of victory
November 20, 2009
The Springboks need to turn their tour around in Udine © Getty Images
Rarely has a fixture between Italy and South Africa carried such weight. The Springboks' winless trip to Europe has placed added significance on Saturday's showdown at the Stadio Friuli in Udine.
A Test defeat to France last weekend was followed by the midweek side's Wembley capitulation against Saracens on Tuesday, leaving Peter De Villiers' men in desperate need of a pick-me-up before travelling to face Ireland at a hostile Croke Park next weekend. Italy will have been buoyed by their forward dominance in defeat to the All Blacks last weekend, regardless of the IRB's criticism of referee Stuart Dickinson.
Prop Martin Castrogiovanni was a rock against the Kiwis and has already chewed up one Springbok front-row this month, in the colours of Leicester during their victory at Welford Road in South Africa's tour opener.
Cheetahs loose-head Wian du Preez will make his Test debut in a new-look Springbok front-row alongside hooker Adriaan Strauss and skipper John Smit. Andries Bekker has been drafted in to the second-row alongside Bakkies Botha while Danie Rossouw deputises for the injured Schalk Burger at blindside.
Italian boss, and former Springbok player and coach, Nick Mallett, will be all too aware of the capabilities in his pack and their performance will be key to any hopes the Azzurri have of succeeding.
It's in the backs where the Springboks are overwhelming favourites to swing the game. Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen all start after powering their side to Tri-Nations glory.
Another muddled display with ball-in-hand against the All Blacks has caused Mallett to ring the changes out wide, with wing Matteo Pratichetti, centre Alberto Sgarbi and scrum-half Simon Picone all earning starts. Much again rests on the shoulders of Australian rugby league convert Craig Gower at fly-half both in terms of finding a creative spark and matching the relentless Steyn from the kicking tee.
"The more experience they gain, the better they are becoming and they are able to compete with any team on the day," De Villiers said of Italy. "They have a very good pack of forwards and they showed in their match against New Zealand that they will be very competitive at scrum time."
Italy: Luke McLean, Matteo Pratichetti, Alberto Sgarbi, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco, Craig Gower, Simon Picone; Salvatore Perugini, Fabio Ongaro , Martin Castrogiovanni, Carlo Antonio Del Fava , Quintin Geldenhuys , Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni , Sergio Parisse (capt),
Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Ignacio Rouyet, Antonio Pavanello, Josh Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Tito Tebaldi, Gonzalo Canale
South Africa: Zane Kirchner (Bulls); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Adi Jacobs (Sharks), Bryan Habana (Stormers); Morne Steyn (Bulls), Fourie du Preez (Bulls); Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Andries Bekker (Stormers), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), John Smit (capt, Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Wian du Preez (Cheetahs)
Replacements: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), BJ Botha (Ulster), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Jean Deysel (Sharks), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire)
Assistant Referees: James Jones (Wal), Peter Allan (Sco)
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