Boks beat Italy 63-21 after an impressive second half performance

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GENOA, Italy (AP) — An impressive second-half performance lifted South Africa to a 63-21 victory over Italy on Saturday and gave the Springboks the first victory of their European tour.

There were few signs of what was to come after a fairly even first half, but two quick tries early in the second to Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse, his second of the match, helped the Springboks take control.

The Boks scored seven of their nine tries after the interval, as reserves Kwagga Smith, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Cobus Reinach also turned around, as did Damian Willemse.

Italy, who beat Australia for the first time in their history last week, can take something positive from an impressive first half in which the Azzurri matched the world champions and also led for almost 20 minutes.

Ange Capuozzo, who has been nominated for World Rugby’s player of the year, again impressed with another try to add to the two he scored against the Wallabies. Lorenzo Cannone also managed to go around.

Italy were looking to build on last weekend’s historic victory over Australia, while South Africa was hoping to salvage something from their European tour after losses to Ireland and France.

And the visitors got off to a perfect start as, with less than two minutes on the clock, they spread the ball from right to left, where Arendse had room to lunge forward and dive into the corner.

Kolbe sent the conversion well wide and Italy managed to recover from their woeful start.

Tommaso Allan put the Azzurri on the board in the ninth minute after Siya Kolisi was penalized for handballs in the ruck.

Kolbe succeeded with a penalty for the Springboks moments later to nullify those points, but Italy quickly took the lead.

Italy captain Michele Lamaro managed to pass the ball to Capuozzo, who displayed electric acceleration to dive between two defenders and deflect another before launching to the roars of the passionate home crowd.

Allan converted to give Italy a 10-8 lead and the hosts extended it further with another penalty in the 20th minute.

The hosts were defending brilliantly but Danilo Fischetti was penalized for not shooting in the breakdown and Kolbe went between the posts to cut the deficit to two.

And the Boks took the lead in the 29th when, following a lineout, Bongi Mbonambi broke away from the driving mallet. He was tackled just short of the line, but stretched for the score.

The TMO verified grounding and a potential double motion before sticking with the ruling in the field and awarding the trial. An easy conversion from Kolbe gave South Africa an 18-13 lead which they held until half time.

Allan reduced the deficit early in the second half with another penalty, but straight from kick-off Kolbe leapt to grab the ball and dive on it.

However, Kolbe pulled his hamstring while doing it and had to leave, so Faf de Klerk took the conversion and sent it wide.

But the worst was yet to come for Italy moments later when Arendse got her second try of the match, in similar fashion to her first, and this time Manie Libbok scored the conversion.

The Azzurri appeared to have been stunned by South Africa’s breathless start to the second period and committed another penalty, leading to a lineout and from there Smith managed to force his way through. Libbok added the extras back.

The floodgates opened and the Springboks extended their lead further from another lineout near the five-metre line when a maul rolled onto the line and Marx dropped for a simple score.

Libbok missed extras and Cannone finished off a great team move, but the gap remained at 21 when Allan’s conversion went wide.

Italy’s faint hopes of getting back into the game were dashed by further attempts by Kitshoff and Willemse. And Reinach capped off a brilliant last-minute Boks performance with his ninth attempt.

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