Boks are desperate for win

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But one thing both sides have in common is a rather forgettable season.

And, although the Springboks’ year has been the more concerning one, history has, of course, always favoured the South Africans when they play the Azzurri.

The sides met 12 times, and the Boks boast a 100 percent win record over the Italians. But before we get too cocky, lest we forget - if ever Italy had a chance of securing their first win over the Boks, it definitely would be now.

But enough with the history lesson.

One man who can attest to all the trouble the Boks have encountered this year is skipper Adriaan Strauss, perhaps because he was one of the players who has struggled most.

But the hooker was positive about the team’s preparation this week ahead of Saturday’s Florence Test (4pm SA time).

He said their training session has been of fine quality this season, even though they rarely got the desired result.

“We had a great week, but our training sessions have been really good all year. The effort and the energy is always there,” Strauss said Friday.

“We know we haven’t carried that into Saturdays and onto the Test-match field. So hopefully we can take a step closer to being the team we can be.

“I would like to have a very successful day. It has been a season of some frustration as well. We have been working hard and hopefully things come together,” Strauss said.

Some of the Boks’ biggest problems in terms of player positions this year has been in midfield, at fullback and the loose trio.

But, despite the continuous issues in these areas, Strauss, like coach Allister Coetzee, believes that continuity is key going forward.

“Consistency helps. A lot of the guys didn’t know each other too well, so it’s good to have the guys playing together for more than one game. To get the consistency going is always a good thing.”

Under new Italy coach Conor O’Shea the Italian side are a new outfit, with six players having fewer than seven caps.

No 8 and captain Sergio Parisse is one of the more experienced campaigners with 120 caps, while Australia-born inside centre Luke Mclean has 82 caps. Tighthead prop Lorenzo Cittadini also boasts some significant experience with 51 caps.

The Springbok starting XV, on the other hand, has 74 more caps than the Italians.

Up front, the Boks will do battle with 157 caps, while Italy will try to combat with 61.

But Strauss says his side won’t go into the fixture respecting the hosts any less than they would a more experienced side.

“We approach each game exactly the same, whether we play Italy or England. We give every team the same amount of respect,” he added.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge and we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a physical battle. We need to be clinical. We have showed signs that we can play good rugby, but we need to put that together for the full 80.”

Against England at Twickenham last week, the Boks failed to make full use of their chances and failed to convert their possession into points in a 37-21 losing battle, and, although Coetzee has emphasised that the Boks are ‘process-driven’ and not only focused on getting the win, Strauss admitted they desperately need a victory.

“Getting points on the board and finishing is important. We’re not focusing on the win, but the coach knows, we need the win.

“We have been our own worst enemy this year, making mistakes and turning over ball and not being able to execute when it really matters in the 22.”

The Boks really need a nourishing meal before they end their tour against Wales in Cardiff. A plate of spaghetti will do just fine!

Saturday Star

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