Crunch time for Boks, Italy in Pool B decider
Italy won their first two pool games, while the Springboks suffered a 23-13 defeat to New Zealand in their opener and followed it up with a 57-3 win over Namibia.
The loser of this match is likely to finish third in Pool B and miss out on a play-off spot, and O’Shea and Bok coach Rassie Erasmus emphasised the importance of producing a strong performance up front.
“If you don’t front up physically against South Africa, you’ve already lost the match. You must take them on in the forwards. We must treat it like the last match we’ll ever play,” he said.
“The momentum can swing in a moment of magic or a penalty and we have to be competitive. You need to be at your best throughout the match because you never know when that swing will come. I’m sure the lads will give their all on Friday.”
At the team announcement on Tuesday, Erasmus, who opted for a six-two split between forwards and backs for the crunch match, said: “We have versatile players in the backs who can cover a number of positions and we have planned for different scenarios.
“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles.”
Italy beat the Springboks once in 14 Tests - in Florence in 2016, when the Azzurri won 20-18.
The Italy coach isn’t paying too much mind to that famous triumph, but he does, however, believe their 2016 coup will help instil belief as they go into their biggest World Cup challenge in Japan so far.
“You need that benchmark to know it is achievable, but they are two different teams.”