ITALY HAVE SLIM HOPE

Pieter de Villiers. Pic: Sydney Seshibedi. 25/08/2008. © The Times. South African national rugby team coach Peter de Villiers talks to the media during the press conference at the Southern Sun hotel in Sandton.

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Pieter de Villiers. Pic: Sydney Seshibedi. 25/08/2008. © The Times. South African national rugby team coach Peter de Villiers talks to the media during the press conference at the Southern Sun hotel in Sandton. ------ MAIN fc 24m wide gabi

ITALY'S chances of causing an upset when taking on the Springboks in Witbank tomorrow are as slim as Bafana Bafana's qualifying for the next round of the World Cup.

ITALY'S chances of causing an upset when taking on the Springboks in Witbank tomorrow are as slim as Bafana Bafana's qualifying for the next round of the World Cup.

There's a chance, but in reality it will be uphill all the way.

Though Bok coach Peter de Villiers has opted to rest a number of players - some necessitated because of injury, others due to a long Super 14 campaign - the strength and depth of the home side will be too great for the visitors.

In the engine room of the scrum Bakkies Botha makes a return after serving a four-week suspension for foul play. And the Bok enforcer had better be on his best behaviour.

The front row has a new look to it as well.

For Jannie du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Gurthro Steenkamp, the opportunity presents itself to show they are a unit capable of mixing it up on the international stage.

For Ralepelle it's a chance to produce the goods for a full 80 minutes.

In a career that has been ravaged by injuries, the burly Ralepelle will be desperate to repay the coach for the faith he has shown in him.

South Africa is blessed with good hookers - Gary Botha and Tiaan Liebenberg being just two - but De Villiers continues to stick with Ralepelle through thick and thin and the Blue Bull would like nothing better than a top-notch performance.

At fullback Zane Kirchner has yet to reproduce his domestic form for the Green and Gold.

Against both Wales and last week against France, he has had indifferent displays and will be eager to show the No. 15 jersey belongs to him while Frans Steyn continues to ply his trade overseas.

Playing in Witbank is also something new for the Boks, but a move they welcome. "It is not often that we play in places like Witbank and it is great to see how passionate the fans are. There was a big crowd at the training and the guys were happy to sign a few autographs for them to show their appreciation. We expect the support to be great at the weekend and hope we can put smiles on the faces of the fans," captain Victor Matfield said.

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