Springboks battle past Italy

Date published: November 22 2014

South Africa were made to work very hard to beat Italy 22-6 in an error-strewn clash at Stadio Euganeo in Padova on Saturday.

South Africa were made to work very hard to beat Italy 22-6 in an error-strewn clash at Stadio Euganeo in Padova on Saturday.

Predictions of a run-away victory for the world’s number 2 ranked side were well wide of the mark as the Boks struggled to break down a determined Azzurri defence.

They did eventually outscore their hosts three tries to none, and held their own in the scrum battle, but the lack of a clinical edge on attack was sorely missing.

The final scoreline, it must be said, is a little flattering and owes much to the bluntness of Italy’s below-par backline.

South Africa dominated the territory and possession statistics in the first half but failed to convert the pressure into points and only led 8-6 at the interval.

Springbok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen gave away a scrum penalty but scored a well-taken try to give the visitors a slight advantage at the break.

The number of turnovers conceded would have been a huge concern for Heyneke Meyer. The Boks tried to play at a pace that the hosts could not keep up with but their own mistakes meant that Italy were in a position to take the lead approaching the hour mark.

The Bok bench would have a massive impact as they set up the second try, scored by scrum-half Cobus Reinach, but instead of the dam wall breaking it was Italy who plied the pressure on in the closing stages.

Bryan Habana grabbed a try against the run of play in the last minute, though, to add some gloss to the result.

The hosts had the upper hand in the opening exchanges and although Kelly Haimona missed his first penalty attempt from long range, he split the uprights with his next effort after Oosthuizen buckled under pressure from Matias Aguero at scrum time.

The Boks had to wait for the 15-minute mark to score their first points and Pat Lambie had an easy kick to level the scores after Italy were caught offside.

The visitors would be first to cross the whitewash though as Oosthuizen stretched out an arm to score after a charge from short range to cap a patient build up. Lambie’s conversion attempt sailed wide.

The Springboks would spend most of the rest of the half camped in Italian territory but a lack of execution and misfiring line-out meant the scoreline would remain unchanged until Haimona could add his second penalty just before the break after Eben Etzebeth came in from the side of a maul.

Italy lost Aguero to injury but the opening minutes of the second half would follow much the same pattern and the Boks, once again, were made to regret turning down kickable points in favour of attacking line-out that didn’t work out.

Indeed, Haimona could have put Italy ahead on 55 minutes but saw his long-range penalty effort fall just short.

The Boks finally broke through on the hour mark as Nizaam Carr provided a try-producing offload with his first touch in international rugby, finding Reinach on the break after a great carry from Bismarck du Plessis.

The scrum-half raced home for his second game-changing try in as many weeks and Handr