South Africa 29 // Italy 13
CAPE TOWN // South Africa, the world champions, defeated Italy 29-13 despite a disjointed and lethargic performance at the Puma Stadium in Witbank yesterday. 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.
Morne Steyn, the fly-half, scored 14 points for South Africa, while eight of Italy's points came from the boot of Mirco Bergamasco, the winger. But Victor Matfield, the Springboks captain, 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 teammates shook off their rust. Bryan Habana, the winger, put the Springboks in front in the 18th minute when a drive by Francois Louw, the flanker, produced quick ball for the backs. Butch James, the recalled centre, made a well-timed pass to Zane Kirchner, the full-back, 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 half-time 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 teammate unmarked on the touchline.
The Boks were later dealt a blow when James was yellow carded, which gave Sergio Parisse, the Italy captain and man of the match, the space to dive over in the 63rd minute after a good break by Tito Tebaldi, the scrum-half.