Italian players celebrate after defeating South Africa in Florence.
Italian players celebrate after defeating South Africa in Florence. MAURIZIO DEGL'INNOCENTI

Springboks slump to first ever defeat against Italy

RUGBY UNION: Italy has heaped more misery on South Africa by beating the Springboks 20-18 for the first time.

South Africa led 12-10 at half-time but a mixture of sloppy mistakes and Italian resilience in front of a raucous home crowd at the Stadio Artemio Franchi gave the Azzurri a stunning victory.

Italy had lost all 12 of its previous encounters to the Boks since their first in 1995, all by 16 points or more.

In the past six weeks, the embattled South Africans have suffered their heaviest home loss at the hands of New Zealand, drawn with the Barbarians and, last weekend, lost to England for the first time in 10 years.

The result heaps more pressure on coach Allister Coetzee ahead of their final November Test against Wales next week.

Coetzee said he could not resign: "That is out of my hands. But definitely, that is not Springboks standard.

"I'd say it's the darkest moment of my coaching career. The toughest. But I don't want to look at it emotionally now, because emotions are high.”

The Springboks' form has been issue since suffering an historic loss to Japan at the 2015 World Cup in England.

"It's not good enough losing to Japan or Italy. No disrespect to Italy, they deserved their victory today,” Coetzee said.

"I can only congratulate on an outstanding performance from a team that has maybe lacked belief, and a young team without any pressure on them.”

Italy's Irish coach Conor O'Shea praised his players' courage.

"I'm very happy for the players and the fans, but this is only the start for us,” said O'Shea, who succeeded Frenchman Jacques Brunel in July.

"We have a lot to do to change rugby in Italy, but we have the capability, talent and potential to do it.

"Today, we made a lot of mistakes and we had some problems with discipline. But the sheer heart and courage ... they weren't just brave, they were just heroic.”

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