Springboks Defeat Italy Comfortably in Padova

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South African flanker François Louw celebrates (rear C) celebrates with temmates after scoring a try during a Rugby union test match between Italy and South Africa at the Euganeo Stadium in Padova on November 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

A passionate crowd of Azzuri supporters saw the Springboks defeat Italy comfortably in Padova.

Padova delivered a very rainy day for this clash, which could easily have turned the game into a mud-wrestling contest between the two packs. Fortunately, this did not turn out to be the case. The quality may not have been fantastic, but the Springboks will be pleased that they defeated Italy by a margin that they would be more comfortable with, 35 points to 6.  Their shock defeat in 2016 still hurts for the team and their supporters.

Springboks Defeat Italy

For the relieved Springbok supporters, the scorecard was:

Italy 6 – Penalties: Carlo Canna (2)
South Africa 35 – Tries: Francois Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Francois Venter, Steven Kitshoff, Franco Mostert Conversions: Handre Pollard (5)

Ryan Jordan takes a look at a few ‘key thoughts’ coming out of this game:

Undesirable Coaching Set Up

We do have to continually refer back to this as it is an ‘undesirable arrangement’ when it comes to International rugby. The Springboks entered this game having lost two coaches after the win against France.

Defense and exit play coach, Brendan Venter, is also a consultant to the Azzuri, and was not available to Head Coach Allister Coetzee this weekend. Also, Forwards Coach Johan van Graan, joined Munster to take over from the departing Rassie Erasmus – so two essential staff were missing. Undesirable at best, especially for an International rugby Test.

The fact that nothing has been mentioned of a replacement leads us to make two conclusions. (1) either Scrum Coach Matt Proudfoot will be given more responsibility in 2018, or (2) that Allister Coetzee will not survive his performance review in December; and a new Head Coach will be appointing his desired Forwards Coach.

The Springbok Defence

This was one of the highlights of the Springbok performance. The patience displayed on defence was far superior to anything than we have seen this year–bar their narrow loss to the All Blacks in Cape Town.

Backline Play Impressive

The two starting backline players who impressed most were Handre Pollard and Francois Venter. Pollard challenged the defensive line regularly, aided by a dominant forward pack.

Francois Venter of South Africa during the test match between France and South Africa at Stade de France. (Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport)

Venter may be playing out of position at inside center, but impressed with his running lines and not playing from too deep. The same cannot be said of the outside backs, who generally remain unimpressive on attack.

Lost Opportunity to Build Depth

This match was the ideal opportunity to test some of the younger, or more inexperienced players in order to build squad depth. Coetzee’s parlous position as Head Coach meant he was forced to select his strongest team in order to protect his own position.

Unfortunately in terms of squad development, this meant that players such as Curwin Bosch and Lukhanyo Am were never in with a chance of getting any game time. The one player given an opportunity, Warrick Gellant, showed that he does have something to offer at Test level, when he came on with 25 minutes to go.

Credit Where it is Due

The Italians did give it a full go! That was pleasing for their fans. But, despite their territorial and possession dominance, they could not get over the Springboks tryline.

Sergio Parisse defied his 34 years of age and 128 Test caps, to once again be the Azzuri’s most influential player.

However much this result helps, as the Springboks defeat Italy–it cannot remove the memories of 2016. That day will surely retain it’s infamy, even after today’s 6-35 scoreline.

Playing Tests Outside of the International Window

The Springboks will play one final match on this end of year tour, against Wales. The South African Rugby Union’s precarious financial position forces them to accept games outside of the International window. Subsequently, against Wales they will be without Francois Louw, Duane Vermuelen, Elton Jantjies and Franco Mostert.

All of these players will now have to report for duty at their European clubs; outside of South Africa, that so many of them are contracted to. And with the injuries they have collected along the way, this leaves the squad thin on depth and the game against Wales starts to look very challenging.

The Head Coach and his coaching team will hope that a win will add to the SARU bank balance, as much as cannot help camoflauge their poor performance of 2017.

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