Durban - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers says improving as a team will be their main in their Test against Italy in Durban on Saturday.
After losing five Tests in 2012, the veteran skipper is hoping the Boks can improve their record, starting with the first international assignment of the year at Kings Park.
“It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing against, the next three games is about upping the level and improving," De Villiers said in Umhlanga Rocks on Friday.
“We believe we’re much better than the seven out of 12 we got last year. A lot of lessons have been learnt through the year and we’re definitely much better prepared now than we were 12 months ago.”
The Western Province centre earns his 85th cap in the match which is part of a unique double header as Samoa play Scotland in an earlier kick-off at the same venue. The Boks play Scotland the following week, before meeting the best-placed of the three visiting teams in a third Test on June 22.
The Italians have lost all 10 previous meetings against South Africa, but are on their way up after finishing fourth in the Six Nations earlier this year, ahead of Ireland and France.
“We’re not looking much at our track record against them,” De Villiers said. “This is a good Italy side, we won't underestimate them.
“At some stage Italy will beat South Africa. Whether that’s in a year's time, 10 years’ time or a 100 years’ time, eventually it will happen.
“Our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen on Saturday.”
De Villiers, who came through a troubled hamstring niggle on Wednesday, said the biggest area of improvement for the Springboks would be in the breakdowns.
“The coaches have identified it as an area we need to improve on a lot,” he said.
“We’ve been putting a lot of work into it and, once that’s sorted out, it’s obviously much easier to attack. Hopefully that will happen.”
Coach Heyneke Meyer named five debutants in his match-day 23 announced earlier in the week -- Willie le Roux, Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha, Jan Serfontein and Trevor Nyakane.
Le Roux and Vermaak were down to start with Botha now elevated to the run-on XV after an injury to Willem Alberts.
Veteran Italian forward Marco Bortolami acknowledged that facing the Boks would not be easy.
The 32-year-old, who would win his 95th cap on Saturday after returning from almost a year out injured, was confident his side could continue their improvement as a test-playing nation.
“This tour is very important for us because we want to keep improving and prove we can get better,” Bortolami said.
“I’ve played few times in South Africa and it’s never easy.
“It’s always a big test for every player in every position when you play against the Springboks, but we don’t have to be scared, we must just prove we are capable of competing.”