De­feat is all-time low for Boks

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s ten­ure as Spring­bok coach hangs by a thread af­ter his team suf­fered yet an­other ig­no­min­ious de­feat, this time to Italy in Florence on the Boks’ end-of-year tour yes­ter­day.

The loss, South Africa’s first against Italy in 13 meet­ings, joins an un­prece­dented de­feat to Ire­land at home, a sec­ond re­verse to Ar­gentina and the big­gest loss to the All Blacks at home in a shock­ing sea­son that has seen the Boks lose six of the 11 tests they’ve played this sea­son.

To put the mag­ni­tude of the up­set in con­text, Italy had only won one of their seven games this sea­son and took a 6810 past­ing against an All Blacks sec­ond-string side just last week­end.

The fright­en­ing thing about how low on con­fi­dence the Boks are, is that they had more than am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to put this game away as early as the first half. But a cou­ple of knock-ons (by Vin­cent Koch and War­ren White­ley) and an iffy fi­nal pass by Fran­cois Ven­ter in the Ital­ian 22, robbed them of a third try, to add to the two they’d al­ready scored.

To boot, the Ital­ians played with 14 men from the 42nd minute on­wards af­ter lock Marco Fuser was sin-binned af­ter the Ital­ians took out the Boks’ li­ne­out jumper in the air for the umpteenth time, but the Boks only scored the penalty that re­sulted from the of­fence.

Most dis­ap­point­ing for Coet­zee, who min­imised the changes to the team that lost to Eng­land in a bid to get them to fix their er­rors, would have been the fact that the same ar­eas of con­cerns again crept up.

The break­down area was par­tic­u­larly sham­bolic. While there is a case for ref­eree Ge­orge Clancy al­low­ing the hosts to lie on the ball and to play it from off­side po­si­tions, the Boks in­vited trou­ble by be­ing limp-wristed in their clean­ing out, which al­most al­ways meant a slow ball.

The de­fence was bet­ter to start with, but where the prob­lems are usu­ally out wide, the Boks sud­denly couldn’t de­fend the maul when Italy scored their first try through South Africa-born lock Dries van Schalk­wyk. And by the time giant winger Gio­van­bat­tista Ven­ditti scored out wide, the old prob­lems had crept back into the Boks’ psy­che.

The pity is that this over­shad­ows en­cour­ag­ing pas­sages of at­tack that led to Bryan Ha­bana’s 67th test try and the coun­ter­at­tack ef­fort that led to Damian de Al­lende’s long-range ef­fort.

But Italy de­serve their fa­mous scalp by stay­ing in the fight long enough to turn mo­men­tum their way.

Their de­fence was a strong point, though de­fend­ing against the Boks’ one-off run­ners hardly re­quired imag­i­na­tion. South African rugby is at an all­time low. SCOR­ERS Italy – Tries: Dries van Schalk­wyk, Gio­van­bat­tista Ven­ditti; Con­ver­sions: Carlo Canna (2); Penal­ties: Edoardo Padovani, Canna

Boks – Tries: Bryan Ha­bana, Damian de Al­lende; Con­ver­sions: Pat Lam­bie; Penal­ties: Lam­bie, El­ton Jan­tjies

PHOTO: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI / REUTERS

MAULED Italy’s An­dries van Schalk­wyk and Or­nel Gega tackle South Africa’s Adri­aan Strauss

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