It definitely wasn’t pretty but the Springboks showed a clinical tactical awareness to beat Italy 35-6 in a cold and wet Padova on Saturday evening.
Using a very impressive scrum performance and sound defence as foundation, the Boks made the game safe in the first half already, building valuable momentum and scoreboard pressure to lead 21-6.
Eventually, South Africa finished with five tries, which would have been a big relief as it means back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
Despite an uneventful second period, it was the Boks seventh win in 12 starts and made amends for Italy’s shock win some 12 months ago.
In clearing the entire bench, coach Allister Coetzee gave Warrick Gelant a first cap as some of the rest got a recent runs.
Who was the star in this match?
Bok pivot Handre Pollard looked more secure and confident in his second start and nailed all four of his conversions in difficult and wet conditions. His ability of attacking the direct route gave the Boks a lot of options. He also showed great vision to go for the cross-kick in setting up the Boks’ third try by centre Francois Venter. It wasn’t only pinpoint but a sign of good decision-making.
Key moments and themes
- After trailing 3-0 early on, the first Bok try by flank Francois Louw was crucial to build scoreboard pressure in the 14th minute. South Africa showed excellent patience and composure throughout numerous phases but it was Pollard who made the vital stride over the gainline to provide momentum.
- Even though it wasn’t spectacular the other two Bok tries from close range in the first half by hooker Bongi Mbonambi – in his first start – and Venter were exactly what the doctor ordered. It was nothing fancy, just clever and clinical.
- Crucially, the Boks held their nerve and patience on a wet pitch throughout. They were relentless on defence – even though the Italians weren’t very dyamic on the attack – and maintained their discipline superbly. When they did get the ball, the Boks opted for the direct route on attack, a sensible ploy on the heavy field.
- Interestingly, there were several first Test tries for the Boks in Venter, Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff as well as the final try scored by replacement lock Franco Mostert.
Italy – Penalties: Carlo Canna (2).
South Africa – Tries: Francois Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Francois Venter, Steven Kitshoff, Franco Mostert. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Elton Jantjies.