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Head coach Allister Coetzee and his charges are yet to deliver a dominant display this year and after winning just four out of 10 fixtures so far this year, the Azzurri will fancy their chances of notching their first ever victory over the two-time world champions.
South Africa are yet to hit their straps under Coetzee’s guidance but will look to do just that after being comprehensively outplayed in last weekend’s 37-21 defeat to England at Twickenham.
The Azzurri side have gained a reputation for their forward play over the years but that’s a facet of play which are one of the Boks’ traditional strengths and despite their poor form, they have been competitive up and even dominated several tussles up front this year.
Italy had the uneviable task of facing the All Blacks in their first match after their shock defeat to Ireland a fortnight ago and as expected their was a severe backlash with the Azzurri suffering a 68-10 defeat to the world champions in Rome last weekend.
But despite that result, Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan expects a tough challenge this weekend.
“Italy will be a tough opponent at home, playing with a lot of pride and passion and they will be looking for an improved performance against the Springboks,” he said.
“We want to be technically and tactically better against a side that is playing at home and eager to show improvement.”
In Conor O’Shea, Italy have a relatively new coach, who is in his first year at the helm, and despite losing all their matches in this year’s Six Nations and suffering that heavy loss to the All Blacks, he is optimistic about his team’s future.
“I know it may sound strange, after a result like the one on Saturday, but against the All Blacks we laid important foundations of the work they intend to develop,” said O’Shea.
“There are guys with a future ahead, in this team, and we are working to build this future. Not forgetting, of course, the results we want to achieve in the short term. ”
O’Shea believes the future is bright for the Azzurri and is optimistic his troops will deliver a competitive performance against the Boks.
“I’m looking forward to playing South Africa,” he added.
“For me, the glass is always half-full. If we stick to our plan, the results will follow. If we don’t, they won’t.”
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Andries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Sami Panico
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 George Fabio Biagi, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Tommaso Boni
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Teboho Mohojt, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Johan Goosen