Coffee with Conor laid grounds for Italy win
REACTION: Italy captain Sergio Parisse revealed that a sitdown with coach Conor O'Shea over coffee in Paris set the wheels in motion for a historic 20-18 victory over South Africa on Saturday.
Springboks wing Bryan Habana, winning his 124th cap, gave Allister Coetzee's embattled two-time World Cup winners an early boost with an eighth-minute try in Florence.
But Italy, now under Irishman O'Shea after he agreed to succeed Frenchman Jacques Brunel, were on a mission to play creative rugby and did so while repelling several promising South African attacks.
As the Bok mistakes piled up, Italy dug in and were rewarded with tries either side of the interval.
Italy wrapped up the win thanks to a three-point penalty from flyhalf Carlo Canna in the 64th minute, although defence was key in the closing stages as the Boks pushed for late points.
For Parisse, who made his 121st appearance for Italy, it was all thanks to a coffee he bought O'Shea several months ago.
"Three or four months ago I had a coffee with Conor in Paris and one of the first things he said to me was: 'We have to beat South Africa'," Parisse said.
A No.8 with Stade Francais in Paris, and one of the world's leading players in the position, Parisse continued: "I paid for the coffee. I was totally in agreement with him!
"It would have been disrespectful of us to say we were going to beat South Africa, but we knew within ourselves that we had the capacity to beat them.
"Now we have to be conscious we've beaten a great team, but this is just the start."
Italy began their November Test series with a crushing 10-68 defeat to an All Blacks B team in Rome last week that, surprisingly, failed to ruffle O'Shea's feathers.
O'Shea saw it as a chance to pinpoint problem areas and remedy them - it helped that Italy were playing a South African side mired in crisis.
"Inside the squad, and for me personally, I've witnessed a different way of working [under O'Shea]," said Parisse.
"When you concede defeat by nearly 60 points [against New Zealand] not many people are going to think positively of you, but this week we worked and focused on correcting the mistakes we made against the All Blacks.
"South Africa have been in difficulty but we did well to put them under pressure."
O'Shea calmed talk of an Italian renaissance in Florence.
"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," he said.
"We have a lot to do to change rugby in Italy, but we have the capability, talent and potential to do it.
"There are going to be a lot of highs and lows for the next three years. But for now, we're just going to enjoy this."