2019 Rugby World Cup
Hosts: Japan Dates: 20 September-2 November
Coverage: Full commentary on every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

South Africa will be nervous when they play their must win World Cup game against Italy on Friday, coach Rassie Erasmus has said.

The Springboks are third in Pool B behind Italy and New Zealand, with the top two reaching the knockout stage.

South Africa have won 13 of 14 matches against The Azzurri but did lose to them as recently as 2016.

“We’ve been preparing for 20 or 21 Test matches and it is do or die now,” Erasmus said.

“The players feel it. I can’t sit here and tell you that we don’t have a few butterflies, because we’ve lost to Italy in the last three years.

“They [Italy] will be really up for this game because they won’t believe they can beat the All Blacks, but they will believe they can beat the Springboks.”

South Africa, who were one of the pre-tournament favourites, have made three changes to their pack from their defeat by New Zealand in their opening game.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, prop Tendai Mtawarira and lock Lood de Jager keep their places after strong performances against Namibia on Saturday.

Italy have recalled veteran Sergio Parisse at number eight, who will become the second-most-capped player in Tests.

The 36-year-old will win his 142nd cap, overtaking Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll, meaning only former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will have more with 148.

They have maximum points so far after bonus-point wins against Canada and Namibia and play New Zealand after meeting the Springboks.

Italy coach Conor O’Shea said “the pressure is firmly on South Africa” on Friday.

“They are expected to win the World Cup,” he said.

“If you don’t front up physically against them, you’ve already lost the match. You must take them on in the forwards. We must treat it like the last match we’ll ever play.”

Teams

South Africa: Le Roux, Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, De Klerk; Mtawarira, Mbonambi, Malherbe; Etzebeth, De Jager; Kolisi, Du Toit, Vermeulen

Replacements: Marx, Kitshoff, Koch, Snyman, Mostert, Louw, Jantjies, Steyn

Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti, Morisi, Hayward, Campagnaro; Allan, Tebaldi; Lovotti, Bigi, Ferrari; Sisi, Budd; Steyn; Polledri, Parisse (capt)

Replacements: Zani, Quaglio, Riccioni, Zanni, Ruzza, Negri, Braley, Canna

Match stats

  • South Africa have won 13 of their 14 previous meetings with Italy in international rugby, with those 13 wins coming by an average margin of 37 points per game, their sole defeat came in Florence in 2016.
  • This will be the first meeting between South Africa and Italy at the Rugby World Cup; it is one of only four match-ups between current Tier 1 nations to have never previously occurred at a Rugby World Cup (England v Ireland, Ireland v South Africa, Scotland v Wales).
  • Since Italy beat South Africa in 2016 they have lost all 25 of their subsequent matches against Tier 1 opposition, recording just one defeat by a single figure margin in that time (27-29 v Scotland in 2018).
  • Italy are enjoying a three-game winning run at the Rugby World Cup – their best ever streak at the tournament – including a victory in their only previous World Cup clash against a team from Africa (v Namibia, 47-22).
  • Italy have lost their last 10 Rugby World Cup games against current Tier 1 opposition by an average margin of 38 points per game; their last – and only – win in such a fixture came against Argentina at the 1995 tournament.
  • South Africa’s Handre Pollard (101) needs a haul of just 11 points to eclipse Percy Montgomery (111) as the highest point scorer for the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup; Pollard has eclipsed that 11-point mark in five of his previous eight World Cup appearances.
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