FUKUROI CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Italy scrum-half Tito Tebaldi says beating South Africa in Friday’s must-win Rugby World Cup clash will be the perfect culmination of several years of hard work by his team.
Italy will be the clear underdogs in the Pool B clash at the Shizuoka Stadium against one of the pre-tournament favourites but victory will seal a first ever World Cup quarter-final for the Europeans.
Tebaldi admits the carrot being dangled in front of the players is huge.
“Most of our preparation has already been done in past matches, but of course we do need to make some fine adjustments to the details,” Tebaldi told reporters on Thursday.
“South Africa are very physical and are very strong in the collisions, and we have been preparing for that.”
Tebaldi says the input of Italy’s South African-born assistant coaches, Marius Goosen and Mike Catt on defence and attack respectively, has helped the team formulate a plan to counter the considerable threat of the Springboks.
“We have done a lot of analysis, the assistant coaches have given us good instructions and it is now up to us to make sure we play every individual play accurately.”
But even as underdogs, the enormity of the potential prize at the end of the contest means the Italian players are feeling the pressure, said Tebaldi.
“Of course we are feeling a lot of pressure on and off the pitch. But then as the match is getting closer, we can’t go into the game feeling such a pressure, that will not be productive.
“We have known from several years ago that we are targeting tomorrow’s match. We can now only look forward to it.”
Tebaldi said the side could draw inspiration from Japan’s surprise 19-12 victory over Ireland last weekend that blew Pool A wide open, as well as the Asian side’s shock victory over the Boks in 2015.
“We are playing against a team that is different from Ireland and we are different from Japan. Whether we are inspired? Not so much directly, but also Japan have beaten South Africa in past World Cups (2015), so anything is possible.”
Both sides will have one match remaining after Friday’s clash as the Boks meet minnows Canada on Tuesday and Italy face defending champions New Zealand on Oct. 12.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty