DYLAN JACK looks at where the World Cup clash between the Springboks and Italy in Shizuoka on Friday was won and lost.
The Springbok attack struggled in the first half as Italy saw the better of possession and made inroads into South African territory through a number of powerful carries from their loose forwards.
An outstanding try from Man of the Match Cheslin Kolbe and a maul try from the ever-improving Bongi Mbonambi was all the Boks had to show in a stuttering first half.
The Springbok attack may have been affected by the game being reduced to uncontested scrums, robbing Rassie Erasmus’ side of one of their primary weapons, which was functioning well up until that point. However there were still some basic errors on attack, including Kolbe’s pass being overrun by Willie le Roux when the Boks’ had a clear overlap just outside the Italian 22.
The red card obviously made things easier in the second half, as it robbed Italy of an extra defender, meaning one of their outside defenders had to be sucked inside to help cover up. The Bok backline took full advantage, with Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am carrying the ball strongly in midfield and creating space for the outside backs.
Am had possibily his most influential game of the tournament to date, ending with 106m run (the most of the match) as well as three clean breaks and an excellent intercept try. De Allende was typically powerful with his carries, carrying the ball across the gainline eight times, but was able to find that extra space in the second half, beating a total of five defenders.
Meanwhile, Kolbe has firmly established himself as possibly the Boks most effective player on attack. The diminutive wing scored a brace while also running 100m, making three clean breaks and beating four defenders. If the Bok attack struggles, it is most often that they turn to Kolbe for a piece of individual brilliance.
This was one of the Springboks’ better defensive efforts of the tournament. The South Africans ended with an 88% tackle success rate, missing 15 of their 109 tackles. Importantly, the Boks found their groove at the breakdown, slowing down the Italian ball and winning a total of 10 turnovers.
Ths Springboks did, however, struggle to contain Italy’s loose trio as both Braam Steyn and Jake Polledri produced some monster carries and were able to bounce of a few tackles.
Siya Kolisi was possibly the Boks’ most important player in this regard as he made a fine return to full fitness, finishing 80 minutes for South Africa for the first time this year. The Bok captain completed all 11 of his tackles for a 100% success rate.
Kolbe and Handre Pollard also deserve praise for their defensive efforts as they both made key tackles which directly led to Springbok tries. Kolbe completed all five of his tackles.
Italy found themselves on the wrong end of referee Wayne Barnes’ whistle from the get go, as they conceded penalties at both the scrum and maul. While injuries to their tightheads took the scrum contest out of the equation, their discipline still let them down.
The red card to loosehead Andrea Lovotti ended the game as a contest and Italy can be thankful that replacement Nicola Quaglio was not shown red.
Italy conceded 13 penalties in the match, more than twice of the Springboks.
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images