Italy v Boks: 5 talking points

2014-11-24 10:48
Trevor Nyakane (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Despite an unconvincing 22-6 victory over Italy at the weekend, the Springboks will take a few positives from the clash in Padova.

It was a hard fought win against a highly motivated Azzurri, who matched the Springboks physically and were in the contest midway through the second half.

The Boks held a slender 8-6 lead before several substitutions made by coach Heyneke Meyer appeared to swing the game in South Africa’s favour.

Sport24 has highlighted FIVE talking points from the weekend's match:

1. Bok scrum

The Springbok scrum performed better than expected against a much feared Italian front row. Trevor Nyakane performed remarkably well against highly rated Martin Castrogiovanni, while Coenie Oosthuizen had one of his better outings as a tighthead prop.

However, there were still a number of traumatic scrums that saw the Boks penalised and move backwards glaringly. It was also nice to see a well deserved Bok debut for Lions prop Julian Redelinghuys, but replacing Nyakane with Gurthro Steenkamp was perhaps not the right call.

Steenkamp’s days as a Springbok may be numbered, as ex-Bok prop Ollie le Roux noted on Twitter during the match: “1st time we get scrummed Gurthro at 1. He is the weak link in Bok scrum.”

2. Springbok substitutions

As was the case in the game against Australia at Newlands earlier in the year, a few Springbok ‘super subs’ made a big difference in helping the team seal victory late in the second half. The game was still on a knife-edge midway through the second period, with the Boks holding a slender 8-6 advantage.

Willie le Roux and Nizaam Carr, in particular, played a big part in adding spark to a somewhat lacklustre Springbok attack. Carr made an immediate impact when his sniping break and spectacular off-load set up a try for scrumhalf Cobus Reinach.

Le Roux added some much needed X-factor at the back. Bryan Habana’s try after hooter was started by Le Roux who showed brilliant vision to attack from deep inside his own half, before off-loading to Handre Pollard, who also came on as a second half substitute. Pollard broke through the Italian defence before setting Habana away for his 57th Test try.

3. Patience and composure on attack

The Springboks had several attacking forays into the Italian 22m area but left the red zone empty handed on a number of occasions. A little more patience on attack, especially in the first half, would have put the game to bed much earlier.

On 27 minutes, JP Pietersen failed to pick up a long skip-pass from Lambie with the tryline begging. This could have seen the Boks take a handy 15-3 lead.

A few minutes later, a brilliant break from Goosen put the Boks back on attack inside the red zone, before a hasty forward pass from Oosthuizen to Reinach scuppered another promising scenario. What could easily have been a 20-3 lead at the break, turned into a meagre 8-6 advantage.

4. Bok standout

Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach was named the official man-of-the-match, and while he had an adequate game which included finishing off a spectacular try, Sport24 felt Eben Etzebeth was worthy of receiving the best player award.

Etzebeth produced one of his most forceful showings of the year and is now well and truly over the ankle injury which saw him sidelined for the large parts of the season.

Etzebeth's performance was also fitting on a day legendary second rower Bakkies Botha announced his retirement from Test rugby.

5. Boxes ticked

While the win over Italy in Padova was less than spectacular, coach Heyneke Meyer will feel more satisfied with the depth in a few key positions.

Johan Goosen, who replaced regular fullback Willie le Roux, showed promise from the back, Nizaam Carr was a revelation at flank, while Trevor Nyakane's scrummaging was a welcome highlight.

Like the coach said afterwards: "We ticked a lot of boxes in this match."

Read more on:    springboks  |  herman mostert  |  rugby

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