Coetzee Habana to the rescue for embattled 'Boks coach

The pressure on Coetzee to revive an already ailing 'Boks has intensified since a 37-21 defeat to England.

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South Africa's Bryan Habana will earn his 124th cap against Italy and is only three tries short of retired Japan wing Daisuke Ohata's all-time test try tally of 69 play

South Africa's Bryan Habana will earn his 124th cap against Italy and is only three tries short of retired Japan wing Daisuke Ohata's all-time test try tally of 69

(AFP/File)
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South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has embraced the return of wizard wing Bryan Habana as the wounded Springboks look to rebound from defeats to New Zealand and England by beating Italy on Saturday.

The pressure on Coetzee to revive an already ailing 'Boks has intensified since a 37-21 defeat to England at Twickenham last week, their first in a decade, followed hot on the heels of a record 57-15 home mauling by the All Blacks in Durban.

Anything less than a convincing win against a new-look Azzurri in Florence could spell disaster for Coetzee in his first year as head coach.

Yet the 53-year-old insists "continuity" is crucial as they look to build for the future. As a result, Toulon's Habana and Stormers loose forward Nizaam Carr are the only two changes to the team that started against England at Twickenham.

Habana will earn his 124th cap and is only three tries short of retired Japan wing Daisuke Ohata's all-time test try tally of 69.

With captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss 59 appearances short of Habana's 123-cap tally, Coetzee is counting on the 33-year-old Habana's "management" skills in a "tough" game against an side still ailing from a 68-10 rout by the All Blacks in Rome a week ago.

Anything less than a convincing win against a new-look Azzurri in Florence could spell disaster for South Africa's Allister Coetzee in his first year as head coach play

Anything less than a convincing win against a new-look Azzurri in Florence could spell disaster for South Africa's Allister Coetzee in his first year as head coach

(AFP/File)

"He understands what it takes, he's a true professional and hopefully he can aid with the game management this week," Coetzee said of Habana.

"This is not a test where you will see festival rugby, or think you're just going to open up and score tries. It's going to be a proper test match.

"With his experience, we're will have to build an innings this weekend. There will be a lot of kicking from the Italians, but we can't just start running from far out.

"No, we treat this game as one massive test."

Although Italy will look to amend a largely under-par display against a New Zealand B side, Coetzee believes breaching their back line won't be so easy.

"Don't look at the score against New Zealand. They've kept their shape really well in defence in spite of being breached 10 times," he added.

"So we will have to work hard to break that defence down."

It will be crucial, too, says Coetzee, to cut out the errors that allowed England to score 23 unanswered points in a spell either side of half-time at a rain-swept Twickenham.

"Individual errors on the day, it just happens that the player didn't get it right," he said.

"But the players understand that you've got to swim, and swim very quickly.

"It's going to be no different this weekend. We have to be more accurate in terms of execution when we have the ball and even when we don't."

Italy have played South Africa 12 times and lost on each occasion. And fans would be forgiven for believing an unlucky 13th is on the cards.

After replacing Jacques Brunel in July, coach Conor O'Shea insists the focus is still on trying to maintain a pre-set, disciplined gameplan for the full 80 minutes.

Italy's Giovanbattista Venditti (C) has been recalled to replace Angelo Esposito on the left wing against South Africa play

Italy's Giovanbattista Venditti (C) has been recalled to replace Angelo Esposito on the left wing against South Africa

(AFP/File)

"I have huge confidence in the squad," said O'Shea, who has recalled Giovanbattista Venditti to replace Angelo Esposito on the left wing while Francesco Minto comes off the bench to replace Maxime Mbanda in the back row.

Treviso's Ornel Gega has already replaced injured hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker while Sami Panico has come in for injured prop Andrea Lovotti.

He aded: "It will sound strange after a defeat like Saturday's, but against the All Blacks we laid some foundations that we intend to fully develop with the players here who will represent the future of the squad."

But if South Africa are to avoid adding further woe to Coetzee's embattled tenure, they will have to find consistency as well, said Habana.

"I've played against Italy twice in Italy and not only do they get fired up before the game, they bring intensity into the game too," he said.

"We understand this is the biggest game of our season, given the year we've had. We have to show improvement in all areas on Saturday.

"We have a lot of respect for them. We have to play rugby for 80 minutes."

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