Cape Town - Springbok defence coach Jacques Nienaber admitted the Italian coaching brains trust had been causing him to lose sleep as he looked forward to Friday night’s potential Pool B decider.
The Springboks must win to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. Meanwhile, if Italy beat the Boks for a second time they are virtually guaranteed to go through to the next stage.
The Springboks have made no secret of their respect for the Italian game and their coaching panel featuring Irishman Conor O’Shea (head coach), former England centre Mike Catt (attack coach), South African Marius Goosen (defence coach) and former Italian international prop Giampiero de Carli (forwards coach).
"They are quite clever I haven’t slept a lot in the last three days," said Nienaber from the team’s hotel (which is actually in Omaezaki and not at the match venue in Shizuoka).
"Conor, Goosen, Catt and De Carli are students of the game and they have been involved in it for a long time and they make good plans. Obviously they will challenge us.
"They've got a good pack and good backs as well. I’ve been lucky enough to coach against teams like Benetton and Zebre in Europe and their rugby has grown in terms of Conor’s guidance in recent years."
The Springboks named a team featuring six forwards on the bench as well as three changes to the tight five (to the team that opened the competition against New Zealand) to specifically meet the threat posed by Italy.
"Their forwards will maul well and they’ve got a good scrum," said Nienaber, who identified that as a key platform for their attack.
"If you look at their launches from scrums in the Six Nations against teams like England, they 'cut' them, put them under pressure.
"In the warm-up game against Ireland – or it may have been in the Six Nations – at 48 minutes it was 14-12 to Italy. So they can be dominant."
Kick-off on Friday is at 11:45 (SA time).
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn
15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Michele Campagnaro, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Dean Budd, 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Substitutes: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Carlo Canna