Matfield takes over the captaincy for SA vs Italy as David meets Goliath

Jeffrey WillemsContributor IJune 17, 2008

Italy against South Africa could be compared to David and Goliath except for the fact that David won. South Africa being the rugby world champions will play Italy who are ranked Eleventh in the world.

South Africa have just completed a satisfactory 2 match series win against the Six Nations champions Wales. New Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has been building his squad and combinations for the up coming Tri-nations, so how will he be approaching this one of test against Italy? Should de Villiers keep his combinations and starting fifteen against Italy to allow them the game time needed to perform well against New Zealand and Australia or should he rest key players and allow them to be fresh for the vital tournament ahead? de Villiers could also use this opportunity to play fringe players such as flyhalf Peter Grant in order to get him match fit in case Butch James gets injured during the Tri-nations. Regular captain John Smit is on club duty with Clermont in France so will miss the Italy clash which gives Victor Matfield the chance to captain the side. Percy Montgomery will also be on club duty for Perpignan whereas Danie Rossouw and Pierre Spies are unlikely to play due to injury.

Italy have come off an encouraging Six Nations tournament where they narrowly lost to Ireland, England and France but beat Scotland in the last minute by a Andrea Marcato drop goal. Italian Coach Nick Mallett will know what to expect from the South Africans as he is a former springbok coach and de Villiers, current Springbok coach, was Mallets assistant coach. Although this test may seem like a dead rubber both teams will have goals they would want to achieve. The springboks would aim to give fringe players a chance to play and for combinations to settle. The Italians would aim to put up a fighting challenge against the Boks and to measure themselves against the best in the world.

The Italians only hope would be the changes South Africa make unsettles them and gives them an outside chance for causing an upset. If that were to happen then the title of David and Goliath would be very appropriate.