Cape Town - Another shock Springbok defeat? Surely not!
If recent form is anything to go by then Allister Coetzee’s Springboks should avoid another embarrassment when they tackle Italy in Padova on Saturday.
Italy stunned the rugby fraternity when they beat the Boks 20-18 in Florence last year.
It was their first triumph against South Africa in 12 attempts and contributed to a horror first season in charge for Coetzee, as his team won only four of 12 Tests - the worst record for a Springbok team in a calendar year.
The Springbok class of 2017 has shown improvement, but there have again been some unwanted records set - the 57-0 drubbing against New Zealand in Albany was the worst in the team’s history, while Ireland also managed their biggest win over the Boks when they triumphed 38-3 in Dublin earlier this month.
These record defeats, along with the woes of 2016, will likely mean that Coetzee loses his job next month, irrespective of what transpires on the remainder of the Springboks’ year-end tour.
Coetzee has won 10 of 23 Tests in charge of the Boks - meagre 43% win ratio that he’ll hope to slightly improve over the next fortnight against Italy and Wales.
One would have expected Italy to use last year’s triumph over South Africa as a springboard for further successes, but the Azzurri have sadly not progressed much.
A week after upsetting the Boks, they lost to Tonga at home and have won just one of their last 11 Tests.
The world’s 13th-ranked side comfortably lost all of their Six Nations games earlier this year, with their sole win in 2017 being a 19-10 scrap over Fiji earlier this month.
The Springboks’ 18-17 win over France in Paris last weekend was not much to write home about, but one would expect them to fare better against less-fancied opponents this weekend.
Coetzee and his charges must surely have learnt valuable lessons from last year’s ignominy.
Or have they... ?
Italy’s results since beating the Springboks 20-18 on November 19, 2016:
LOST: Italy 17-19 Tonga, November 26, 2016 - Padova
LOST: Italy 7-33 Wales, February 5, 2017 - Rome
LOST: Italy 10-63 Ireland, February 11, 2017 - Rome
LOST: England 36-15 Italy, February 26, 2017 - London
LOST: Italy 18-40 France, March 11, 2017 - Rome
LOST: Scotland 29-0 Italy, March 18, 2017 - Edinburgh
LOST: Italy 13-34 Scotland, June 10, 2017 - Singapore
LOST: Fiji 22-19 Italy, June 17, 2017 - Suva
LOST: Australia 40-27 Italy, June 24, 2017 - Brisbane
WON: Italy 19-10 Fiji, November 11, 2017 - Catania
LOST: Italy 15-31 Argentina, November 18, 2017 - Florence