SHIZUOKA, Japan (Reuters) - South African-born Braam Steyn has shifted from number eight to the side of the scrum to accommodate the return of talismanic captain Sergio Parisse for Italy’s crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with the Springboks at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.
The match is a must-win game for both sides as they seek a quarter-final berth and will have a knockout feel, with Parisse’s vast experience of 141 caps and five World Cups adding huge value for the Italians.
Steyn will provide muscle, South African know-how and foraging at the breakdown for what Italy coach Conor O’Shea expects to be a brutal physical battle.
“We feel this is the best squad that we could have selected based on the specific game-plan we have for South Africa, so we are very pleased to have everyone fit and available,” O’Shea told reporters in Shizuoka on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a massive physical challenge and these guys will have to front-up, otherwise we have lost the game before it has even started.”
Parisse, 36, sat out the 48-7 win over Canada in Italy’s last game, but O’Shea beleives he will be a central figure on Friday.
“He is one of the great players in the world under the high ball and brings outstanding strength to the back row,” the coach said, adding that it was the type of fixture that would be won by heart and soul rather than skill alone.
“This game is not just about the game-plan, when you come up against a team like South Africa, you have to have heart and courage, and I know our team has got that in spadefuls.
“Nobody gives us a chance, but if the execution is right, you only need one or two things to go your way and it becomes a totally different game.”
O’Shea has also brought in centre Luca Morisi, with Michele Campagnaro moving to the wing.
Tito Tebaldi is back at scrum-half to partner number 10 Tommaso Allan in the only other change from the Canada match on Sept. 26.
Italy have a full haul of 10 points from their two Pool B matches but must still face New Zealand after their meeting with the Boks.
Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Jayden Hayward, 11-Michele Campagnaro, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Jake Polledri, 6-Braam Steyn, 5-Dean Budd, 4-David Sisi, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Alessandro Zanni, 21-Sebastian Negri, 22-Callum Braley, 23-Carlo Canna.
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Robert Birsel