Boks brush Italy aside
JJ Engelbrecht (Gallo Images)
Durban - The Springboks have begun their international season with an emphatic 44-10 win over Italy (half-time 20-0) in their first game of the Incoming Series.
Click here for interactive live scoring from the match.
A brilliant Bryan Habana try soothed South African nerves after they had built a 20-point first-half lead, only to have it halved by the hour mark at Kings Park before the veteran right-wing made his mark with a solo score.
Receiving possession inside his half, the France-bound Western Stormers star accelerated down the right wing, cut inside and touched down between the posts with a trail of would-be tacklers in his wake.
Recalled flyhalf Morne Steyn confirmed good goal-kicking form this season with 19 points from five conversions and three penalties as the Springboks made a solid start to a 12-Test season.
The green and gold almost scored within 20 seconds of the start as an Italian mishandled the kick-off ball and left-wing Bjorn Basson was stopped close to the line.
But it did not take much longer for the home side to open their 2013 scoring account with Steyn maintaining superb Super Rugby goal-kicking form by slotting a penalty.
He also succeeded with his second penalty attempt and an Azzurri team under the cosh had lock Marco Bortolami sin binned 12 minutes into his Test return after a one-year injury absence.
All the play was in the Italian half and it came as no surprise when they conceded a try on 14 minutes as hooker Adriaan Strauss touched down after a driving maul from a line-out.
Steyn converted, the Springboks were 13 points ahead just 14 minutes into the match, and it got even worse for the visiting side nine minutes later with centre JJ Engelbrecht scoring this time.
Habana created it with a dazzling run from deep in his half before passing to Engelbrecht 35 metres out, and Steyn converted once again.
After barely threatening to score in a first half which ended with them trailing 20-0, Italy were a much better team in the early stages of the second half.
An 11-phase Azzurri movement served as a warning and they deservedly scored on 47 minutes with South Africa a man short after Basson was sin binned for a high tackle.
The visitors were queueing up to score as the ball was flung wide close to the line and centre Alberto Sgarbi dotted down after eluding Steyn and half-back partner and new cap Jano Vermaak.
Another debutant, 32-year-old Italy fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo, atoned for narrowly missing a first-half penalty kick by converting and he cut the deficit to 10 points via a penalty just short of the hour mark.
But the Test took a decisive turn soon after as Steyn kicked his third penalty and Habana set the stadium alight with a try which was converted to give the Springboks a 20-point advantage.
Captain Jean de Villiers and Basson scored late tries as Italy ran out of steam and Steyn converted both, one from the touchline and the other from in front of the posts.Scorers:South Africa
Tries: Adriaan Strauss, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson
Penalties: Morne Steyn x 3
Conversions: Steyn x 4, Patrick LambieItaly
Tries: Alberto Sgarbi
Penalties: Alberto di Bernardo
Conversions: Di BernardoTeams:South Africa:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan SerfonteinItaly:
15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke Mclean, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi
Substitutes: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Joshua Furno, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Tommaso Iannone