Cape Town — Can the Springboks end their two-match losing streak on their November tour against Italy?
We look at five head-to-head battles that can decide the result in Saturday’s Test at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa (3pm SA time kick-off)…
Willie le Roux v Ange Capuozzo
Le Roux may be the old pro, but he must watch out for the new kid on the block, Capuozzo, who has hit the headlines with sparkling displays at fullback.
He scored a brace in last week’s triumph over Australia, and will look to take on the Bok defence as well.
But SA No 15 Le Roux has seen it all before, and will try to impose himself on proceedings with timely interventions on attack to get the ball into the hands of the wings.
Cheslin Kolbe v Monty Ioane
Kolbe looked full of running against France last week, and it was a pity when he had to leave the field for an HIA after being taken out in the air by Antoine Dupont, who was red-carded.
The Bok right wing is at his best when he is running at the opposition’s defence, and he will have fond memories of scoring a brace against Italy at the 2019 World Cup.
But Ioane gave the Bulls nightmares in the Rainbow Cup final last year, and his powerful frame and stepping ability will keep Kolbe busy.
It is a mouth-watering prospect to see what these two speedsters can produce…
Damian Willemse v Tommaso Allan
Willemse was much better against France last week compared to the Ireland Test, but needs to take charge as the Bok playmaker at flyhalf.
The South Africans shouldn’t have to rely on Willie le Roux to spark their attack if Willemse is at No 10, as the Stormers star has the full array of skills to make the Boks tick with ball-in-hand.
But he will go up against a classy operator in Allan – who is the son of former Bok hooker John – and the Italian pivot would want to show his coaches that he can compete with regular first-choice Paolo Garbisi (hip injury) for the No 10 jersey.
Siya Kolisi v Michele Lamaro
The Bok captain was the stand-out South African in a losing cause against France, with his work-rate in defence, ball-carries and breakdown work helping to keep his 14-man team in the game after the early red card to Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Kolisi will try to emulate that display in Genoa, but it won’t be easy against the tireless workhorse Lamaro, who is almost always up in support of the ball-carrier, never stops tackling and is a nuisance at the breakdown.
Lamaro was also the captain when Italy beat Wales and Australia, so will hope to secure another big scalp in the shape of the Boks.
Salmaan Moerat v Niccolo Cannone
This will be Moerat’s first Test start, and he has massive boots to fill in the shape of Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth.
But the Stormers No 4 is well equipped to set the tone for the Boks. He is a hulk of a man and his trademark is getting in those lethal big hits in defence that knocks the ball-carrier backwards.
Moerat will have to do the hard yards of cleaning the rucks and taking the ball up the middle as well, and claiming his fair share of line-outs.
He is up against a rugged customer in Niccolo Cannone, the Benetton stalwart who is not the tallest lock at 1.95m, but is a sizable 120kg who will try to stamp his authority in the tight loose.