South Africa are “determined to get onto the right side of the scoreboard” after two defeats in the Autumn Nations Series but head coach Jacques Nienaber says it will be tough against a confident Italy on Saturday.
The 50-year-old on Tuesday made four changes in personnel and two positional switches to his starting line-up from the one that lost 30-26 to Six Nations champions France last Saturday.
The world champions — who lost 19-16 to Ireland in their opener — will face an Italy side with its tails up after recording their first ever victory over Australia last Saturday.
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‘Boost their confidence’
“Italy’s victory against Australia will boost their confidence immensely going into this match,” said Nienaber.
“They defeated Wales away in the Six Nations and tested Scotland as well, so we are under no illusions as to the challenge that lies ahead.
“Italy have shown before what a force they can be at home by defeating the Boks 20-18 in Florence (November 2016), and they will draw confidence from that as well.”
Nienaber has brought in Andre Esterhuizen to partner Damian de Allende in the centres — veteran Jesse Kriel dropping out altogether — whilst No 8 Jasper Wiese returns having had to miss the France game due to concussion.
Franco Mostert has been switched from lock to the backrow as Pieter-Steph du Toit faces a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday after his red card in the French Test.
Nienaber has installed an all new second row of Marvin Orie and Salmaan Moerat — veteran Eben Etzebeth dropping to the bench.
“A couple of players have been training very hard in the last few weeks and deserve a chance to start,” said Nienaber.
“Lood’s (de Jager) injury and Pieter-Steph’s disciplinary hearing opened the door for us to give them an opportunity.
“Salmaan and Marvin are both Stormers players, so they have been playing together for a while, and they are very hungry for game time, so we are looking forward to what they bring in the game.”
‘On right track’
Nienaber says they have been working hard to fine tune things that have not gone right for them in their two matches so far.
“We believe we are on the right track after coming close against Ireland and France,” he said.
“If we can produce a strong showing up front and be a little more accurate in our execution, we know we can turn things around on tour.”
Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Kurt-Lee Arendse; Damian Willemse, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt); Marvin Orie, Salmaan Moerat; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Bench: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Kwagga Smith, Evan Roos, Cobus Reinach, Manie Libbok