Defence key against Boks: Brunel

2014-11-21 09:07
Jacques Brunel (Getty)

Milan - Italy coach Jacques Brunel is calling on the Azzurri defence to limit the expected damage against an "extremely efficient" South Africa when the sides meet in the hosts' final November Test in Padua on Saturday.

South Africa ended New Zealand's 22-game unbeaten run last month and are on the rise having made amends for a 29-15 defeat to Ireland in their opening Test with a 31-28 victory over England last week.

Although Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has made four changes to the side that stunned England in front of more than 80,000 fans at Twickenham, Brunel expects South Africa to be at their formidable best.

"The Springboks are without doubt the form team of this November series. They had a great summer and also brought the All Blacks' long winning streak to an end," said Brunel.

"They're a great squad, equipped with the tools to play an extremely efficient brand of rugby.

"We need the same tight defence we've adopted since the start of the season, and to try and impose some of our own game.

"It's the tail end of South Africa's season, while we're only starting ours, and that could be a relevant factor. They showed their mettle after the defeat to Ireland by going to Twickenham and beating England."

On paper, Italy look to have little chance of ending their 11-game losing streak to Meyer's finely-tuned side, who at Twickenham claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games against next year's World Cup hosts.

Ahead of meeting Italy for the 12th time, Meyer will, for the first time, test the fullback potential of Metro Racing flyhalf Johan Goosen, who replaces Willie Le Roux.

Meyer's decision was in part inspired by the desire to limit the influence of New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona, whose skill with the boot also saw him kick 29 points for the Azzurri in their previous two Tests against Samoa and Argentina.

"I believe Johan can become a world-class full-back, and that he will still offer a good option at (number) 10," said Meyer.

"This will be a big test for Johan. The Italy flyhalf kicks tactically well, and so his positional play will need to be good."

In the pack, Teboho Mohoje replaces Schalk Burger, Coenie Ooosthuizen comes in for the injured Jannie du Plessis while Trevor Nykane will start his first Test for the Springboks at loosehead prop when he replaces Tendai Mtawarira.

Meyer also made five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match 23 for the first time.

"I'm excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern test against a fired-up Italy," said Meyer.

"They are a passionate nation with a very experienced coach in Jacques Brunel and a world-class captain in Sergio Parisse. The Italian pack is always formidable and their backs are not scared of taking chances.

"Our focus is to show improvements from our performance at Twickenham and we know it will be a big challenge on Saturday."

Brunel made only one change to the side that lost 20-18 to Argentina last week with Fiji-born flanker Samuela Vunisa making his debut by replacing Simone Favaro in the back row after the Treviso player suffered a sore neck in training.

In the only other notable switch, Leonardo Sarto has been pulled back to the right wing with Luke McLean going the other way to the left wing.

On Vunisa's inclusion, Brunel added: "We'd been following Sam for the past year and a half, first of all with Calvisano and now with (current club) Zebre. Now it's time we tested him at international level."

Italy will be hoping Vunisa follows in the footsteps of fellow recent debutant Haimona, who has impressed so much this month that Tommaso Allan, hailed as Italy's next big thing last Spring, was sent home from training camp earlier on Thursday.

Read more on:    springboks  |  jacques brunel  |  rugby

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