Italy may not have a large pool of rugby players but they have ten prop forwards who can easily play for Australia, says Nick Mallett.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that the former Springbok coach, who is now in charge of the Italian team, confirmed on Wednesday that seven of the leading props in Italy were unavailable for the Test match against South Africa here on Saturday.
But those who were available, he added jokingly, were still good enough to play for the Wallabies.
“Carlos Nieto is, technically, a good tighthead prop. The match is a good opportunity for our loosehead prop, Michele Rizzo, to show what he is capable of,” Mallett said at the announcement of the team to play the Springboks at Newlands.
“Italy have five of six very good international players. We don’t have a (good) flyhalf and we’re struggling to find a scrumhalf to fill Alessandro Troncon’s boots.
“But the Italians produce fine prop forwards. They have ten who can easily play for Australia.”
To solve his problem at flyhalf, Mallett has chosen an outside back, Luke McLean, at No 10.
McLean, who used to play for the Australian Under-19 team, was a flyhalf when he was at school.
Two South Africans
“We have no other option but to throw him in at the deep end,” Mallett explained. “That’s the type of thing you never have to do when you coach the Springboks.
“If Luke proves he can defend well, and if he remains calm and organises the backline well, we’ll be happy.”
In addition to the Australian, Mallett has also chosen two South Africans. Lock forward Carlo del Fava is in the starting line-up and Jaco Erasmus, a versatile forward, on the bench.
Del Fava was one of Italy’s stalwarts in the Six Nations competition last season.
However, the 28-year-old Empangeni-born Erasmus and some of his team-mates seem to be too small to take on the Springboks.
“Del Fava does extremely well. He has the weight and the power that one looks for in an international forward,” Mallett said.
“Erasmus has been playing in Italy for several seasons and is a fine lineout jumper. He is tall but weighs only about 100kg and he does not make a big physical impact. But I believe one needs four lineout jumpers in your squad.”
Del Fava, who played at lock for the SA Under-21s, spoke candidly about how the use of illegal substances had nearly wrecked his career.
The youngster had the world at his feet when he was still with the Sharks but was banned for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
He does not deny using it but he makes a point of telling young players not to make the same mistake.
“It was the ignorance of youth,” the 26-year-old Fava said. “One tries to make things happen for you but this is not the way to do so.
“You have to take your punishment and work hard to come back. I now feel much stronger, psychologically.”
Andrea Marcato, Kaine Robertson, Andrea Masi, Gonzalo Garcia, Matteo Pratichetti, Luke McLean, Simon Picone, Josh Sole, Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni, Carlo del Fava, Santiago Dellape, Carlos Nieto, Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Michele Rizzo.
Substitutes: Fabio Ongaro, Ignacio Rouyet, Jaco Erasmus, Tommaso Reato, Pablo Canavosio, Enrico Patrizio, Riccardo Pavan.
Television: Live coverage on M-Net and SuperSport 1 on DStv from 14:00Tweet