Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Nick Mallett and Carlo del Fava return to their roots

AFP , ROME

Italy's Carlo del Fava, second left, chases England's Lee Mears during their Six Nations match at Rome's Flaminio Stadium on Feb. 10. Del Fava, born and bred in South Africa, will face his former countrymen at Newlands in Cape Town tomorrow.

PHOTO: AP

It will be a homecoming for both Italy coach Nick Mallett and second row Carlo del Fava when they pit themselves against world champions South Africa at the weekend.

Del Fava was born and brought up in Umtata near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, until he left for Italy in 2003. Having already played for South Africa and the Natal Sharks under 21 teams, it didn’t take him long to make his mark with new club Overmach Parma. Within a matter of months he was making his Italy debut against Wales in Cardiff.

His great-grandfather immigra­ted to South Africa from Lucca in Tuscany and like all young men in the rugby-mad country Del Fava grew up wanting to wear the green and gold jersey of the South Africa team.

Instead he is now looking forward to testing himself against the world champions for the first time.

“I was born here and like all lads who grow up in South Africa my dream was the Springboks. Now, though, I have the possibility of playing them wearing the Italy shirt,” he said. “All I can say is it feels strange. It will be a big challenge for Italy. For us in the second row the fatigue on Saturday evening will be something else.”

Now, having become a fixture in the team during the Six Nations, the Ulster captain is excited by the chance to test himself against the Springboks, in particular opposite numbers Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

“They’re phenomenal and are the best second row pair in the world. Taking them on will be a nightmare, but it is the type of challenge every player wants to face,” he said. “Second row is a role where you have to be hungry and you have to want to go to war in every match. On Saturday we will need to gain parity there.”

Such has been the rise of Del Fava since last year’s World Cup that coach Mallett is expecting the 28-capped player to be one of Italy’s key areas in the match at Newlands in Cape Town.

“We have two excellent second rows in Del Fava and Santiago Dellape. Del Fava above all has developed a great deal these past couple of seasons with Bourgion and Ulster,” the South African coach and former player said.

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