PADUA, Italy — Italy made two changes for the final autumn rugby test against South Africa, which the Azzurri memorably beat last year.
Flanker Giovanni Licata was handed his first start after he came off the bench in the victory over Fiji then the 31-15 loss to Argentina last week, while Angelo Esposito replaced Leonardo Sarto on the wing.
“The last selection (of the year) is always the hardest to do for a coach,” coach Conor O’Shea said on Thursday. “We wanted to keep the group that played this trio of matches, while at the same time adding a bit of freshness with the choice of Angelo and Giovanni from the first minute.”
Licata comes in for Francesco Minto, who drops to the bench. Loose forward Renato Giammarioli has also been named among the reserves and is in line to make his debut.
Tiziano Pasquali takes Leonardo Chistolini’s place on the bench in the only other change to the matchday 23.
Italy recorded its first victory over South Africa last year, winning 20-18 in Florence.
It has lost 10 of its 11 matches since then, however.
Springboks coach Allister Coetzee also made two changes after edging France 18-17 last weekend.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for South Africa, after 12 appearances off the bench, replacing Malcolm Marx, who injured his shoulder in Paris. Fit-again flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit was starting in place of Siya Kolisi, who was unavailable because of the birth of his second child.
Warrick Gelant has been included in the reserves and could make his Springbok debut.
“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No. 2 jersey,” Coetzee said. “Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy (Ralepelle), should he get a run.
“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value.”
Italy: Jayden Hayward, Angelo Esposito, Tommaso Boni, Tomasso Castello, Mattia Bellini, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi; Sergio Parisse (captain), Abraham Steyn, Giovanni Licata, Dean Budd, Marco Fuser, Simone Ferrari, Luca Bigi, Andrea Lovotti. Reserves: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Federico Zani, Tiziano Pasquali, Francesco Minto, Renato Giammarioli, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Matteo Minozzi.
South Africa: Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Francois Venter, Courtnall Skosan, Handre Pollard, Ross Cronje; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Dan du Preez, Rudy Paige, Elton Jantjies, Warrick Gelant.