Springboks / 1 October 2019, 12:30pm / Jacques vd Westhuyzen
Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot insists the Springboks will have to use brains and brawn if they’re to get the better of Italy in Friday’s crucial Pool B Rugby World Cup match in Ecopa (11.45am, SA time, kick-off).
Proudfoot said the Italian pack was as good as the New Zealand front-eight and added his team would be in for a one massive Test match.
Having lost to the defending champions, the All Blacks, in their opening game some 10 days ago now, the Boks need to win this match to all but sew up second place in the pool.
They beat Namibia at the weekend and still have to play against Canada, who they’re expected to beat.
New Zealand, meanwhile, are expected to sweep past Canada, Namibia and Italy to top the pool.
“We have a massive job this weekend ... this is what it all comes down to (in the pool),” said Proudfoot, looking ahead to the Italy match.
“Like every northern hemisphere pack, their forwards are the challenge. They have a very smart (forwards) coach in Giampiero de Carli and they are very tough; probably similar to how we play.
“They like to take teams on in the set-phases and I give them the same absolute respect as I would an England or New Zealand pack. The Italians are smart; they’ve got a culture of scrummaging, of mauling, and they put a lot of heat on in the contest.
“We will have to be very smart ... the Italians don’t just bring one picture; it’s not about trying to out-muscle them or being physical only. This is not just a brawn game, but a lot of brain will go into this plan, too ... and then execution under pressure is going to be key.”
Just before the Boks departed for Japan and the World Cup, head coach Rassie Erasmus said if he were the Italian coach, he’d target the Boks rather than New Zealand to pull off a surprise win.
Proudfoot said something similar yesterday.
“The Italians have had two years to prepare for this game and they’ve had eight days since their last match, so they will be up for this,” said the forwards boss.
“They are going to be extremely hungry, and this is their opportunity, so we’ve got to be really good. This is a desperate situation.”
The Boks are again set to rotate their players with Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff expected to start in the front row this week, as they did against New Zealand.
Proudfoot, though, said it didn’t matter who started for the Boks such was the quality of the players in the World Cup squad.
“What’s so pleasing is that irrespective of what front-row starts, the guys are just boosting each other and executing the plan.
“Our binding has been very good and out body heights have been great. There haven’t been a lot of reset scrums and that allows the guys to then build for dominance.
“So, while we’ve rotated the players, the fundamentals have remained and have been sharp and the pack has worked well. It’s a hungry pack that has looked to enforce itself.”