World champions South Africa ended their three-match losing run with a 32-10 victory against error-strewn Italy here on Saturday.
The Springboks came into the match on the back of an unusual losing run but quickly found their form to deal Italy their 13th straight defeat.
For Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, it was his team’s performance, following last week’s 20-13 defeat in France, that was most important.
”When we came into these games the results were secondary to what we wanted to achieve,” he explained.
”Our main focus was on scrums and line-outs and driving on from there to see how it would work in the future. We achieved more than the result.”
The first half was a mini disaster for the Italians, although they did well to turn around at the break only 12-7 behind.
When playing the world champions as heavy underdogs the last thing you want to do is pay for some early indiscipline but on his first start for his country, flanker Simone Favaro charged upfield and hit Fourie du Preez with a stupid late tackle that earned him a yellow card and resulted in a simple 30-yard penalty in front of the posts.
Italy’s South African coach Nick Mallett said that had hurt his team.
”They are world champions and Tri-Nations champions and the first thing that went wrong was going down to 14 players and then conceding 12 points,” he said.
”We then played a great 20 minutes with [Alessandro] Zanni’s chance and [Gonzalo] Garcia’s try but our team needs to put points on the board when we have chances.
”In the second half when South Africa scored a penalty and then try to go 22-10 ahead it became psychologically very difficult for us to continue to play our game and keep the ball.”
Morne Steyn hit the post with his kick but Italy’s reprieve was short as on five minutes Ryan Kankowski handed off with embarrassing ease a pathetic attempted tackle from Craig Gower and then cut inside Fabio Ongaro before shifting the ball inside to Bryan Habana, who wasn’t going to be stopped from 15 yards out.
Steyn missed the conversion but just after Favaro was allowed back on, Habana beat Matteo Pratichetti on the outside and slipped the ball inside for Jaque Fourie to score under the posts.
Steyn finally landed a kick and with 14 minutes gone the hosts were already 12-0 down.
Italy did start to improve, though, and should have have scored as Alessandro Zanni broke to within a yard of the line but his support was slow in reaching him and the Springboks half cleared.
However, they gave away a penalty and Gower, who was having a nightmare, missed before later undoing some good Italian work through the phases by sending a drop kick wide.
But the former Australian rugby league international finally came good on 31 minutes as he gave a subtle pass inside to Gonzalo Garcia with Alberto Sgarbi acting as a foil, completely flummoxing the Springbok backline and allowing Garcia to run through and score a try that Gower converted.
There was still time, though, for both Luke McLean for Italy and Steyn to miss penalties before the break.
Six minutes into the second period Steyn landed a penalty before McLean missed his second of the afternoon after Italy’s scrum caused the kind of problems that had the All Blacks struggling a week ago.
But on 53 minutes the Springboks scored after more calamitous Italian defending as Danie Rossouw broke a tackle on the left flank and slipped the ball inside to Habana, who cut inside McLean and popped the ball to Du Preez who held off Zanni and Mirco Bergamasco to score.
Gower, though, soon pulled back three points from a penalty after his own midfield break but Steyn replied on 64 minutes to make it 10-25.
But as Italian legs started to tire, gaps appeared and Du Preez scythed through one following a line-out and fed substitute Wyand Olivier to score by the posts with Ruan Pienaar converting. – AFP