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How Bill van Zyl sees our Saturday sojourn with Italy

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Date: Saturday, November 19

Venue: Stadio Artemio Franchi

Kick-off: 16h00 SA Time, 15h00 local (14h00 GMT)

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), David Wilkinson (Ireland)

TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)



Sometimes I do not get it!


In fact, I often do not get it!


During the last two years, especially, I have frequently been left wondering whether I am completely misguided or inhabit a different planet to that which our Springbok coaches live on. When I first read the initial squad list released by Heyneke Meyer for last year’s World Cup I was more than a little puzzled by his selections. When he announced the final squad that would travel to England I was completely puzzled. Had he not learned anything in his four years as Bok coach?


Allister Coetzee has also contributed to the ongoing confusion in my world. I struggled to understand some of his selections against Ireland, Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. I did not understand his persistence with a misfiring and obviously out-of-his-depth flyhalf and the misuse of two established flyhalves in the fullback position, game after game. I did not understand the constant changes in the midfield.


I accepted that it is a new year, a new coaching regime, and that he needed time and space to build his own team and make his mark on the game. I hoped he would be learning valuable lessons along the way.


When I read Allister Coetzee’s team announcement for Saturday’s Test against Italy I found myself beyond puzzlement. I am astounded.


Has Allister not learned anything from the loss to England?


Has he not figured that his choice of Rudy Paige as starting scrumhalf is flawed? Paige was slow, uncertain, and often rattled by the English loose forwards last weekend. His decision-making and game control was woeful. His service to his flyhalf was wonky at best, and his box kicking was inaccurate and oft misguided. He adds nothing to the team’s dire need for attacking options.


Has Allister not learned that Willem Alberts is too slow and too single minded to be a Test match level flanker in the modern era? Has he not realised that Alberts does not combine with other loose forwards and seems to have no understanding of the concept of a trio working together as a unit? His skills as a fetcher are somewhat lacking and he cannot keep up with a running game. Surely Oupa Mohoje is a better starting option?


Is the return of Brian Habana on the left wing really the correct option when there are so many superb young wings waiting for the opportunity to play for South Africa? Against Italy? Where we would love to see a youngster earn his stripes and gain invaluable experience at the highest level of the game?


Has Allister really not seen that the future of the Bok scrum revolves around the power of Steven Kitshoff rather than the old bones of the Beast? Let the youngster start and give the Beast a run off the bench if you must have him in your team.


Why are we not blooding a youngster like Malcolm Marx in games such as this? Why is Adriaan Strauss still playing? As captain?


Did he not notice that Lood de Jager has been something less than physical in his approach, seeming to shirk contact and avoid ball-carrying duties as a starting lock? Why not start with Franco Mostert, especially against Italy, and let Lood come on later in the game as a possible impact player.


Why on earth has Elton Jantjies been included on the bench when we already have Johan Goosen amongst the reserves? Did he not notice that Jantjies is nothing more than a front foot player who folds like wet spaghetti under pressure in the big time? This is a selection I simply do not understand at all.


I am happy with the fact that Allister is giving Pat Lambie a chance to find his form. I am happy that he has not changed his midfield yet again. I am happy that Willie le Roux gets to start at 15. I am happy that Ruan Combrinck gets another start to help get him match fit again.


I am ecstatic that Pieter-Steph du Toit is back at lock forward, I am willing to put last week’s selection on the flank down as an aberration.


But, in the main, I am dumbfounded by some of Allister’s choices.


Okay, so it is against Italy, and the bookmakers are suggesting a fairly comfortable win for the Boks, but surely this would be the game where you try and build a team to take on Wales? A chance to get all the gears working and turning in the same direction?


Sorry Allister, I don’t get it!


Allister Coetzee has made three changes to his starting XV for this Test.


Bryan Habana is back on the left wing, JP Pietersen may very well have played his last game in the Green & Gold.


Nizaam Carr will start on the flank, adding pace and ball carrying ability to the squad, as well as some fetching skills. Those fetching skills were completely missing last week, and the inclusion of Carr might just help somewhat.


The third change to the starting team sees Pieter-Steph du Toit move back to lock in the place of Eben Etzebeth, who was not considered for selection because of concussion.


The rest of the starting team that played England in London is kept unchanged.


Coetzee has made three changes to the bench, with Trevor Nyakane (prop), a fit again Oupa Mohoje (loose forward) and Elton Jantjies (fly-half) all returning to the match-day 23.


Conor O'Shea has made four changes to his team as they look to bounce back from the 68-10 loss they suffered against New Zealand.


Giovanbattista Venditti comes in for Angelo Esposito on the left wing, Esposito drops right out of the matchday squad this week.


Amongst the forwards, Francesco Minto replaces Maxime Mbanda on the flank while Ornel Gega and Sami Panico come in for Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lovotti at hooker and loosehead prop respectively.






Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Andries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Sami Panico


Replacements: 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



South Africa: 15 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, 1 Tendai Mtawarira


Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Johan Goosen





Italy should not present the Springboks with too many problems, despite Brendan Venter’s contribution to their planning and preparation. They lost all five of their Six Nations matches this year, and struggled to put away USA and Canada in June.


Last week they missed all of 45 tackles and conceded 10 tries in their 68-10 loss to the resurgent All Blacks.


The South Africans have an opportunity to play positive rugby and to start building those combinations that make a team tick. This is especially critical in the back division, most especially in the midfield. Pat Lambie will get a chance to focus on playing attacking rugby again, Willie le Roux has the opportunity to run freely and unleash his considerable counter-attacking skills again.


Just a little more time on the ball will also allow Lambie and le Roux the chance to polish their tactical kicking skills.


The Boks have an opportunity to play front foot rugby rather than trying to defend their way to a victory. It will be interesting to see whether they rise to the challenge.


The Bok pack should have the beating of the Italian tight five, both at scrum time and in the lineouts.


The loose-ball will be interesting, as the Italian loose forward combination of inspirational number 8, Sergio Parisse and his flankers Simone Favaro, and Francesco Minto have shown their willingness to hunt together and to compete for the loose ball.


Man for man, I cannot find an Italian player who ranks above his Bok counter-part. The only close call is between the two number 8’s where the experience of Parisse perhaps puts him ahead of Warren Whiteley. South Africa simply have too much heavy artillery.


No matter how puzzled I am by Allister Coetzee’s selections, I cannot see Italy proving to be much of an obstacle to the stumbling Boks of 2016. They should win this one, comfortably.

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