Florence - South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has embraced
the return of wizard wing Bryan Habana as the wounded Springboks look to
rebound from defeats to New Zealand and England by beating Italy on Saturday.
The pressure on Coetzee to revive an already ailing 'Boks
has intensified since a 37-21 defeat to England at Twickenham last week, their
first in a decade, followed hot on the heels of a record 57-15 home mauling by
the All Blacks in Durban.
Anything less than a convincing win against a new-look
Azzurri in Florence could spell disaster for Coetzee in his first year as head
Yet the 53-year-old insists "continuity" is
crucial as they look to build for the future. As a result, Toulon's Habana and
Stormers loose forward Nizaam Carr are the only two changes to the team that
started against England at Twickenham.
Habana will earn his 124th cap and is only three tries short
of retired Japan wing Daisuke Ohata's all-time Test try tally of 69.
With captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss 59 appearances short
of Habana's 123-cap tally, Coetzee is counting on the 33-year-old Habana's
"management" skills in a "tough" game against an side still
ailing from a 68-10 rout by the All Blacks in Rome a week ago.
"He understands what it takes, he's a true professional
and hopefully he can aid with the game management this week," Coetzee said
"This is not a Test where you will see festival rugby,
or think you're just going to open up and score tries. It's going to be a
proper Test match.
"With his experience, we're will have to build an
innings this weekend. There will be a lot of kicking from the Italians, but we
can't just start running from far out.
"No, we treat this game as one massive Test."
Although Italy will look to amend a largely under-par
display against a New Zealand B side, Coetzee believes breaching their back
line won't be so easy.
"Don't look at the score against New Zealand. They've
kept their shape really well in defence in spite of being breached 10
times," he added.
"So we will have to work hard to break that defence
It will be crucial, too, says Coetzee, to cut out the errors
that allowed England to score 23 unanswered points in a spell either side of
half-time at a rain-swept Twickenham.
"Individual errors on the day, it just happens that the
player didn't get it right," he said.
"But the players understand that you've got to swim,
and swim very quickly.
"It's going to be no different this weekend. We have to
be more accurate in terms of execution when we have the ball and even when we
Italy have played South Africa 12 times and lost on each
occasion. And fans would be forgiven for believing an unlucky 13th is on the
After replacing Jacques Brunel in July, coach Conor O'Shea
insists the focus is still on trying to maintain a pre-set, disciplined
gameplan for the full 80 minutes.
"I have huge confidence in the squad," said
O'Shea, who has recalled Giovanbattista Venditti to replace Angelo Esposito on
the left wing while Francesco Minto comes off the bench to replace Maxime
Mbanda in the backrow.
Treviso's Ornel Gega has already replaced injured hooker
Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker while Sami Panico has come in for injured prop
He added: "It will sound strange after a defeat like
Saturday's, but against the All Blacks we laid some foundations that we intend
to fully develop with the players here who will represent the future of the
But if South Africa are to avoid adding further woe to
Coetzee's embattled tenure, they will have to find consistency as well, said
"I've played against Italy twice in Italy and not only
do they get fired up before the game, they bring intensity into the game
too," he said.
"We understand this is the biggest game of our season,
given the year we've had. We have to show improvement in all areas on Saturday.
"We have a lot of respect for them. We have to play
rugby for 80 minutes."
Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke
McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8
Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Andries
Van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Sami
Substitutes: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18
Simone Ferrari, 19 George Fabio Biagi, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Edoardo
Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Tommaso Boni
Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de
Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren
Whiteley, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Lood de Jager, 4
Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven
Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19, Franco Mostert, 20, Oupa Mohoje, 21 Faf
de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Johan Goosen