Bongi Mbonambi, in his first Test start, scored South Africa’s opening try as the Boks cruised to a 35-6 win against Italy.
The Boks lead 21-6 at halftime and 28-6 after 43 minutes but took another 34 minutes to score their fifth and final try.
Handre Pollard kicked four conversions and replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies added the final conversion and it was Pollard who was named man of the match by the Italian television commentators.
The Italian media love a big flyhalf who can also kick, but Pollard would be the first to admit that it was the Springboks pack, as a unit, that deserved the embrace afterwards. They demolished the Italians in the scrums, linnets and in the collisions.
The Italians were enthusiastic but they offered nothing in attack. They won a lot of ball but were more a danger to themselves when they had it.
Their inspirational No 8 Sergio Parisse was the only world-class player in the hosts’ line-up and we have to remind ourselves that the Italians are ranked 13th in the world and have now won just one of their last 12 Tests.
Mbonambi enjoyed his hour of Test rugby, the 60 minutes being more than he has played all Test season, and he would have been disappointed to be be subbed in the last 20 minutes when replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle for a first appearance in a Test match since June 2013.
Italy had possession for the first 10 minutes of the Test but had only three points to show for their efforts. They were eager but extremely impotent on attack.
The moment the Boks got front foot ball they scored and the match as a contest was over after 20 minutes when the Boks led 14-6, with an eight point advantage more than enough to beat off the Italians.
The hosts had shocked the Springboks 20-18 a year ago but they were never going to go back to back against the Springboks, no matter how indifferent the Boks had been on tour.
Italy simply wasn’t good enough to challenge the Springboks but equally the Boks were not good enough to put 50 points past an Italian team that would have conceded a century of points to the best of those Bok teams in the professional era.
Penalties: Carlo Canna (2)
Tries: Francois Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Francois Venter, Steven Kitshoff, Franco Mostert
Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Elton Jantjies
HEAD-TO-HEAD (as before kick-off)
South Africa’s overall record against Italy: P: 13; W: 12; L: 1; PF: 617; PA: 165; TF: 84; TA: 14; Average score: 47-13.
Fifteen stats and facts ahead of Saturday’s Italy v Springboks Test in Padova.
· Padova is situated in northern Italy, approximately 40km west of Venice. Stadio Euganeo is a football stadium, but it is also used for concerts, rugby league, rugby union and athletics and has a seating capacity is 32 420.
· Previously, South Africa played one Test against Italy at this stadium, when they beat Italy by 22-6 on November 22, 2014.
· Five Springboks of the current squad played in that Test – Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Handré Pollard and Lood de Jager.
· South Africa’s overall record against Italy: P: 13; W: 12; L: 1; PF: 617; PA: 165; TF: 84; TA: 14; Average score: 47-13. Win%: 92%.
· South Africa scored 101 points against Italy in 1999 at Kings Park, Durban, their third highest score in a Test match by the Springboks. On that day they also set the second highest winning margin when Italy failed to score a point.
· Italy’s only win against South Africa was during last year when they won 20-18 in Florence.
· The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 428. There are 93 caps in the backline with 335 caps among the forwards and a further 129 caps on the bench.
· The average caps per player in the backline is 13, the forwards 42 while the players on the bench average 16.
· The average age of the starting XV is 26.
· Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop to 98 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward, behind Victor Matfield (127) and John Smit (111).
· Eben Etzebeth will play in his 10th Test as captain.
· Handré Pollard needs two points to reach 200 points in Tests for South Africa.
· Warrick Gelant could make his Springbok debut should he be used as a substitute. His Springbok number will then be #890.
· Should Chiliboy Ralepelle be used from the bench, it will be his first appearance in a Test match since June 2013.
· Four players will play in their 12th consecutive Test match of the season – Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Eben Etzebeth and Steven Kitshoff, should he be used as a substitute.
15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Substitutes: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian Mckinley, 23 Matteo Minozzi
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant