South Africa (12) 18
What can I say? The Springboks lost to Italy. For the first time ever. And Saturday’s defeat will plunge them into a hole so deep that it’s going to take much more than just physical effort to get them out.
These troubles have been a long time coming. There was Argentina in Durban last year. Japan at the World Cup. Ireland at Newlands. Argentina in Salta. And now Italy in Florence.
Saturday night’s defeat was just an increasingly deafening siren that was threatening to go off for a while now. But that loss made it final. It made it real.
The Boks were once again undone by a combination of unforced errors and a game plan that is about a decade out of date.
Yes, the tries scored by the Boks were grand. There were attacking aspects that looked a bit promising, but a lot of things that happened in between those five-pointers were not.
South Africa’s storyline was again characterised by missed opportunities, a chronic inability to finish and poor execution.
On defence, they looked like individuals who were desperate to right the wrongs of Twickenham last week. And at times they did, but they weren’t a unit.
And when the going got tough in the second half and the pressure started building, the Boks went back to smashing it up with one-off runners or just playing off No 9.
There were players who looked better than they had in recent outings this year.
Fullback Willie le Roux had a hand in both their tries, and he produced a number of sharp lines and showed great hands at times.
Inside centre Damian de Allende had one of his better performance as he beautifully ran down touch to score, and he also attacked the gainline well.
But again, there were also mistakes that overshadowed the positive touches.
Le Roux’s chip straight into touch just outside Italy’s 22 was one of those, and he should have held onto the ball rather than ruining attacking momentum.
Once again, the Bok breakdown work was very poor. The Azzurri effortlessly flooded the South Africans or, at the very least, shoved them off track.
The Boks had a great chance to rescue the game in the second half after a top break by Le Roux, with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Adriaan Strauss handling well. But the momentum died when Vincent Koch lost the ball in the tackle in opposition half.
And in the last minute of the game, the visitors had a golden chance to at least try and create something after a lineout on own 22. But Du Toit failed to secure possession and Italy, of course, didn’t hesitate to end the game with a kick into touch.
The game started on such a positive note for the Boks.
From an attacking lineout on the 22, they held onto the ball and recycled well from side to side to target where Italy had less numbers.
As they shifted play back to where they started, De Allende put Le Roux away with a quick pass, who ran a sharp line to put Bryan Habana away on his outside for the first try (0-5).
Afterwards, it was Italy’s chance to capitalise from a lineout when South African-born lock Andries van Schalkwyk answered with a try for the hosts after a physical mauling display.
They ploughed through the Boks and crumbled their maul from five metres out, before Carlo Canna converted to put the home side in the lead (7-5).
The Boks added another first-class try after Italy knocked on in midfield.
It wasn’t only the try itself that was good to watch, but also how the Boks attacked from deep.
Le Roux had a hand in this one too, as he came from the blindside to receive a pass from Rudy Paige and shift play to the more favourable openside.
The fullback made another try-creating pass to his outside when he put De Allende into space. It was one of the best moments we’ve seen from the big No 12 this season as he sprinted to score. Pat Lambie added the extras for a 12-10 halftime lead.
Lambie goaled a penalty from straight in front after the Boks took the ball through 18 phases but failed to break through (15-10).
After another Italy try which gave them a 17-15 advantage, Elton Jantjies kicked a long-range penalty to put the Boks ahead 17-18.
The lead was short-lived however, as Canna slotted a penalty shortly afterwards to make it 20-18 for Italy.
So where to now for these woeful Boks?
Original source: So where to now for these woeful Boks?