Internationals - Boks too strong for brave Italy

Reuters - Sat, 19 Jun 13:55:00 2010

World champions South Africa defeated Italy 29-13 despite a disjointed and lethargic performance at the Puma Stadium in Witbank on Saturday.

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The Springboks appeared affected by the host of changes to the team who beat France last week, although they still conjured four tries in the first of a two-test series.

The visitors enjoyed greater territory and possession, especially in the opening quarter, but were too limited in their approach to seriously trouble the hosts.

Fly-half Morne Steyn scored 14 points for South Africa, while eight of Italy's points came from the boot of wing Mirco Bergamasco.

Springboks captain Victor Matfield said he had been frustrated by his team's error-strewn display.

"I don't think we played very well and we made too many basic errors," he said. "We'll work on that and next week will definitely be better. It's just the top three inches that we have to get right."

Bergamasco kicked a 13th-minute penalty to give Italy the lead for the first and only time but Steyn equalised two minutes later as his team mates shook off their rust.

Winger Bryan Habana put the Springboks in front in the 18th minute when a powerful drive by flanker Francois Louw produced quick ball for the backs.

Recalled centre Butch James made a well-timed pass to fullback Zane Kirchner, who grubbered through for Habana to run on to unopposed.

Louw, a late replacement for Schalk Burger, was in the action 10 minutes later when he barged over from a driving maul close to the Italian line.

Steyn was unable to convert but the fly-half made amends on the stroke of halftime when he danced over for his side's third try and converted it for a 19-point lead.

Kirchner notched the fourth try nine minutes after the restart when Steyn probed the blindside from a ruck and found his Bulls team-mate unmarked on the touchline.

The Springboks were later dealt a blow when James was yellow carded, which gave Italy captain and man-of-the-match Sergio Parisse (pictured0 the space to cross in the 63rd minute after a break by scrum-half Tito Tebaldi.

Bergamasco narrowed the gap to 13 points with his second penalty 11 minutes from time, but Italy could not convert a late rally into further points.

"I'm happy about the enthusiasm of my team, especially in the second half," Parisse said. "We're looking forward to the second Test next week in East London.

"For us, it's very difficult to play South Africa, but it's the best way to build ahead of next year's World Cup."

Reuters

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