South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus yesterday said that his team had “ticked the box” with their seven-try 49-3 demolition of Italy that set them up for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
“Our game against Italy was always going to determine who would progress from the pool,” said Erasmus, who had seen his men lose their opener to New Zealand and hammer African neighbors Namibia.
The Springboks next take on Canada on Tuesday after destroying an Italy side reduced to 14 men for most of the second half after prop Andrea Lovotti was red-carded for a tip-tackle.
“One box ticked. We have the Canada game and then another game [the quarter-final] in the same frame of intensity as tonight,” Erasmus said. “We were nervous about this game and we were in playoff mode.”
The turning point was the red-carding of Lovotti, Erasmus said, with uncontested scrums from the 18th minute after Italy’s two tight-head props went off injured.
Two of the seven tries were scored by dynamic winger Cheslin Kolbe, who has proved a thorn in the side of any opposition, whether in a Springbok jersey or playing for Toulouse in the French league.
“He played a wonderful game, both in attack and defense,” he said. “It’s great to have him there.”
Kolbe was taken off late on after turning his ankle in a tackle, but the coach gave him a clean bill of health.
“He rolled his ankle a little bit,” Erasmus said. “His ankle is fine. We didn’t have a reserve, but we thought it was good to get him off the park and play the last minute or two with 14 men.”
Italy coach Conor O’Shea said that he had told the Azzurri of his huge disappointment.
“For 40 minutes, we were able to keep the score to 17-3 and break the lines,” the former Ireland fullback said. “Everything had to go perfectly for us. We came into this match full of confidence about what we could do. The boys never stopped fighting, but the game was finished with the red card.”
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