Durban — The Springboks ended a difficult week in sensational fashion when they overwhelmed a feisty Italian team 61-21 in Genoa earlier today, scoring nine emphatic tries in an exhibition of running rugby.
Between the Boks and the SA A team, they had lost four games on the trot overseas, plus had watched their beloved director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, implode and be confined by World Rugby to his hotel room, and they certainly played like a “gatvol” team with a point to prove.
Luckily the Boks started a lot quicker than the slow-motion rendition of the national anthem, and Kurt-Lee Arendse scored after just 90 seconds as the backs sped the ball wide following a powerful forward maul.
Cheslin Kolbe missed the conversion from the touchline, but nudged over a sitter five minutes later, with Italy pulling back three points via the boot of Tommy Allan in between.
The flyhalf is the nephew of former Springbok John Allan, and he deftly unleashed fullback Ange Capuozzo for a dart through the defence for a fine Italian try, and the conversion put them 10-8 up.
The festive crowd found their voices and the Boks were suddenly under pressure — Faf de Klerk missed touch, they incurred a scrum penalty for early engagement and then, after a further penalty at the breakdown, Allan added three more points.
At the restart, Siya Kolisi charged down Allan and from the pressure the Boks won a penalty that they kicked to the corner only for their maul to be stopped in its tracks and a scrum put-in given to Italy, to an enormous cheer from the crowd.
But the Boks did score next, in the 25th minute, when Kolbe stroked home a penalty, and on the half-hour mark the Boks got their maul working and Bongi Mbonambi went over in his trademark fashion, his 12th try for the Boks. The halftime score was 18-13 after 40 minutes of highly entertaining rugby.
The second half began in the same turbo-charged fashion as the first, with Italy scoring three points when De Klerk was penalised in front of his posts. Then, from the restart, Kolbe pinched the ball from the Italy forwards and scorched to the line.
He pulled a hamstring in the process, though, and De Klerk took the conversion and mishit it badly.
Kolbe limped off, giving a debut to Manie Libbok, who went to flyhalf with Willemse moving to wing. He had barely taken the field when he made a telling pass to Kolisi in space and he unselfishly gave a scoring pass to Arendse for his second try.
All of a sudden the Boks had stormed into a 30-16 lead, and when Kwagga Smith scored off the back of a lineout, a rout was on the cards, which was confirmed when Malcolm Marx crashed over from a maul.
No 8 Lorenzo Cannone completed a lovely team try for Italy, but annihilation was completed when replacement Bok prop Steven Kitshoff barged over and Willemse was put away nearly by Willie le Roux.
The Boks saved their best for last when Cobus Reinach came on and in the last movement of the game finished a wonderful team try.
South Africa 61 — Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), Bongi Mbonambi, Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Damian Willemse, Cobus Reinach. Conversions: Kolbe, Libbok (5). Penalties: Kolbe (2)
Italy 21 — Tries: Ange Capuozzo, Lorenzo Cannone. Conversion: Tommy Allan. Penalties: Allan (3).