Cape Town - South Africa go into the match as overwhelming favourites, but that doesn't mean head coach Rassie Erasmus isn't feeling the heat ahead of his side's crucial 2019 Rugby World Cup clash against Italy in Shizuoka on Friday. 

On paper, there is no way that the Boks should lose, but that was also very much the case when they were stunned by the Azzurri in Florence in 2016. 

In Allister Coetzee's first year as national coach, the Boks produced one of their worst performances in recent memory when they went down 20-18 to an Italian side that was given absolutely no chance. 

A lot has changed since then and the Boks have restored most of their credibility as one of the world's great rugby nations, but Erasmus knows that another defeat on Friday would result in a group stages exit for the Boks and a worst-ever World Cup showing. 

"We've been preparing for 20 or 21 Test matches and it is do-or-die now," Erasmus told media on Tuesday after naming his side for the match. 

"The players feel it.

"I can't sit here and tell you that we don't have a few butterflies, because we've lost to Italy in the last three years.

"They will be really up for this game because they won't believe they can beat the All Blacks, but they believe they can beat the Springboks and they have an eight-day turnaround."

The Boks, meanwhile, will have had just six days to recover since beating Namibia 57-3 this past Saturday. 

With South Africa having lost to New Zealand in their opening match of the tournament, victory for Italy on Friday would leave the underdogs within touching distance of a shocking quarter-final appearance at the expense of the Boks. 

"They would have been focusing on this game for the last year-and-a-half," Erasmus said.

"They would have targeted South Africa to get out of this pool and they would have prepared a lot of different tricks and moves.

"I know Conor (O'Shea) is a sharp coach and also Marius Goosen ... they are a great coaching team."

O'Shea was the Italian coach when they knocked over the Boks in 2016. 

Erasmus added that he would take a victory of any kind on Friday, even it came via a late penalty or a drop goal. 

In truth, it shouldn't get to that and the difference in quality between the sides should be apparent from early on in the contest, but Erasmus knows that anything can happen on the day. 

"I thought about this Test match in November last year already. We've lost to Italy and people shouldn't look past that," he said.

"The most important game was always going to be Italy in the pool stages ... we want to get to the quarter-finals, so this is a very important match."

Kick-off on Friday is at 11:45 (SA time). 

Teams:

South Africa

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