Italy (+26) – Evens
Italy and South Africa meet on Friday morning as the top two in Pool B. The order may not be what we might expect, but this Italian side deserves to go into this game with some of our respect.
Italy field 12 of the XV who started in their win over Canada in their second match. Tito Tebaldi, Sergio Parisse and Luca Morisi are the three new players in the line-up. Not a bad trio at all, I think you will agree.
The handicap on this one is Italy (+26) and it is a number that sits well with me. South Africa demolished Namibia by 54 points, while Italy also defeated the African nation by 26.
This game, at the Shizuoka Stadium in Ecopa, is the make or break tie of this World Cup for Italy. It is the final frontier for their talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, who will play his 142nd test match, surpassing Brian O’Driscoll (141) to become the record appearance maker of the northern hemisphere.
Only Richie McCaw (148) has made more appearances in test matches. It could very well be the last major chance for Conor O’Shea to keep his job too.
It may be cliché to say that Italy’s passion is worth something on the scoreboard, but with a 26-point start, they might just hang in there.
Duane Vermeulen to score the first try – 11/1
On the other side of the pitch, South Africa have made 10 changes to the starting XV that defeated Namibia. Their backline boasts such stars as Le Roux, Kolbe, Am, de Allende and Pollard, but I am going to look at the big men upfront for a chance to make some money.
There is no doubting South Africa’s forward prowess and I believe that they are going to target the Italians in tight. Especially at ruck time.
Faf de Klerk will make them think twice about leaving any space around the breakdown, while his kicking game will also test their back three. Whether they go through the air, through the set-piece or around the rucks, one man is always on the shoulder offering a helping hand.
For me, be it carrying from a scrum, following a knock-on in the air, off the back of a maul from a lineout or just off the pass from a de Klerk snipe, Duane Vermeulen will be one to watch.
Michele Campagnaro to score a try in 80 minutes – 6/4
Having learned our lessons from Japan versus Ireland and Uruguay versus Fiji shocks, we have to look at the chances of the ‘underdog’ crossing the whitewash too.
Italy have 95 points on the board in their opening two games and I think they will get to 100 in this one. South Africa, much like Wales, are an all or nothing side in defence.
They will pressurise your skills and force you in mistakes. There is a release valve, however, and when the All-Blacks found it, it was game over for the Bokke. When South Africa come up really fast in defence, there is going to be space in the 5-metre channels.
Italy scored from a cross-field kick in their win over Namibia and they have a footballing 10 in Allan.
Watch out for his ability to drop deep and arrow a kick to Michele Campagnaro in the number 11 shirt.
* All odds correct at time of posting.