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The Springboks defence coach Jacques Nienaber admits to having not slept well recently as he contemplates South Africa’s Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Italy. He has good reason to be worried as some experienced rugby experts are on Italy’s side plotting South Africa’s downfall. Irishman Conor O’Shea is the head coach assisted by England’s Mike Catt and South Africa’s Marius Goosen. Nienaber says they’re “clever” and will have worked out strategies to pierce the Springbok armour. Italy aren’t favoured to win the clash, but they are preparing to cause an upset in Shizuoka. If Nienaber isn’t sleeping much, you have to wonder if Eben Etzebeth is getting any sleep. He’s been kept away from the media so far to avoid him having to handle any tricky questions about the Langebaan incident where he is accused of having racially abused and assaulted another man. His fate rests in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority who should be close to announcing a decision on whether to charge him or not. Added to Etzebeth’s woes is the news that the Human Rights Commission plans to lay charges against him in the Equality Court. SA Rugby says they haven’t been told to send Etzebeth home, but have again emphasised that they will co-operate with the authorities regarding this matter. Captain Siya Kolisi says the Etzebeth matter hasn’t affected the preparations for the Italy clash, and gave every indication that he wasn’t too clear on what was happening back home. – David O’Sullivan
The high stakes challenge posed by Italy in Friday’s Rugby World Cup Pool B clash has been welcomed by Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.
The Springboks must win their showdown in Shizuoka against the Azzurri to keep alive their hopes of reaching the competition’s play offs. Defeat would mean an early return home.
“Every game is a knockout game for us now – if we slip up we’re out of the competition so we’ve been incredibly focused,” said Kolisi, following the team’s captain’s practice at the match venue.
“In a way we’re fortunate that we get to play knockouts earlier than normal – that’s how we see this game. I know they have also prepared specially for this game – it’s one of those games you want to be playing in as a player.
“As a team we have prepared as well as we could; we have trained well and we’re really confident in our plan.”
Kolisi said that the key for the Springboks would be to raise the level of their performance from the defeat by New Zealand (23-13) in the opening round.
“It was one of those games where they had two opportunities and they took them and we didn’t take ours. We created quite a lot but we couldn’t take them so we don’t need to change a lot.
“It wasn’t a great performance but we can’t smash ourselves over that now. We’ve got to be right for Italy. They’re a great side and they’ve beaten us in the past. Their pack is very strong and that’s why we’ve got another near whole pack on the bench.”
Kolisi said the Springboks were ready and he would not need to say much to the players.
“It’s quite clear what the game plan is and the players know what we need to do – it has been fully coached into us. I don’t need to say anything.
“We know as players that we’ve all been working to get to the World Cup and we want to get into the play offs.
“Every game we play is a play-off so we’re really looking forward to it. So I won’t need to say much; I just need to make sure I pitch up and play well.”
South Africa complete their Pool B programme against Canada in Kobe on Tuesday.
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