Pa­tience, dis­ci­pline pay off as vis­i­tors avenge 2016 de­feat in Italy

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

Italy 6

South Africa 35

IF the Spring­boks were har­bour­ing thoughts of re­venge yes­ter­day, they cer­tainly got it.

The per­for­mance the Boks pro­duced in Padova at the week­end was very dif­fer­ent from the hor­ror show we saw in Florence last year – when the Ital­ians se­cured a record 20-18 vic­tory over the South Africans.

But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think yes­ter­day’s win was any­thing to get ex­cited about, be­cause the Spring­boks’ match against Italy was never go­ing to be the per­fect progress barom­e­ter, and it shouldn’t be.

The Az­zurri have had a dread­ful run since their cel­e­bra­tions last year (they’ve won just one in nine Tests; one in 10 after yes­ter­day), so read­ing too much into a win over a team that’s ranked 13th in the world would be naïve.

But there were a cou­ple of pos­i­tives for the Spring­boks.

The Boks showed pa­tience and good dis­ci­pline with the ball, and while play­ing a mostly de­fen­sive role in the open­ing quar­ter, an­other pos­i­tive was see­ing them score two suc­ces­sive tries when they made it into the op­po­si­tion 22. So the ball re­ten­tion and fin­ish­ing abil­ity was there.

The for­wards also did their job well, and their dom­i­nance over the trou­bled Az­zurri could also be seen at the break­downs in the form of a cou­ple of turnovers they man­aged to se­cure.

They de­fended well, there were a few strong maul­ing dis­plays, and they looked after the ball well con­sid­er­ing the fact that the con­di­tions could have eas­ily made that a pretty tough task.

The Spring­boks’ play­ing style, how­ever, re­vealed no fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion, but the fact that they went direct could per­haps be at­trib­uted to the wet con­di­tions. But if play­ing more at­tack­ing rugby is re­ally the goal, stick­ing to it in those con­di­tions would have helped them grow that game (they don’t have to chuck one-off run­ners and phase play out the window com­pletely, but it shouldn’t be their go-to tech­nique to win matches).

An­other good thing was some of the in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances.

Han­dre Pol­lard looked good as he slot­ted all his con­ver­sions, while it was his con­tri­bu­tion with ball in hand that would have done the most in se­cur­ing him the Man of the Match award. He got over the gain line – some­thing that was un­doubt­edly made eas­ier by the pace at which he ran onto the ball – and he also played a big part in set­ting up the Spring­boks’ open­ing try.

In mid­field, Fran­cois Ven­ter is start­ing to look like more and more of a real con­tender in mid­field rather than just a tem­po­rary fix, while hooker Bongi Mbonambi had a great first Test start. The Storm­ers front-rower even scored a try, and he might have had a cou­ple of li­ne­out trou­bles, but his con­tri­bu­tion in loose play showed ex­actly why he de­serves to in­crease his num­ber of Test caps.

War­rick Ge­lant was also busy when he re­placed Court­nall Skosan in the sec­ond half, and see­ing more play­ers be­ing given a chance can do no real harm.

So, as the Boks kick­start their preparations for what is ex­pected to be a tough test against Wales, let’s hope that Satur­day’s pos­i­tives won’t be a no-show in Cardiff.

SHOW­ING THE WAY: Fran­cois Louw

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