Boks face the Brendan Venter factor
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Brendan Venter, the driving force behind the recent indaba to improve South African rugby, could be a key factor in the demise of the Springboks in Florence on Saturday.
Venter, a confidant of Bok coach Allister Coetzee, had agreed to be a "technical advisor" to Italy for their year-end Tests.
That agreement was in place before he started the campaign and planning that resulted in the much-publicised Cape Town indaba last month.
The former Bok midfielder, with 17 Test caps to his record, is currently a part-time Technical Director at English Championship (second division) outfit London Irish.
He previously coached Saracens and also served in advisory capacities at the Sharks (Currie Cup and Super Rugby).
In between his various coaching stints Venter has continued his medical practice at Strand on the outskirts of Cape Town.
Venter is seen as an analytical mastermind and his inside knowledge of both the Boks and their coach will no doubt come in handy to an Italian side coming off a 10-68 loss to the All Blacks.
"It is an interesting situation," Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan said about Venter's involvement with the Azzurri.
"He is a well-respected coach he knows the Northern Hemisphere quite well," Van Graan added.
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"Allister [Coetzee] and Brendan are very good friends, they know each other inside-out.
"Good luck to them [Venter and Italy], but we just have to focus on what we want to get out of this game and stick to what we do well."
Another South African in the Italian team is former Blue Bulls lock Andries van Schalkwyk, who qualified to play for Italy through the residency rule and made his debut for Azzurri in the Six Nations earlier this year.
He joined up with Italian outfit Zebre in 2012 and have featured in more than 80 games in European and Pro12 competitions.
"I coached him when I was at the Bulls," Van Graan said.
"I watched Andries [Van Schalkwyk] play at Boland. He was one of the guys on my radar back then.
"He came to the Bulls and he is a very gifted player. He did not play there [Blue Bulls] for a very long time. He played at No.8, No.7, No.6, No.5 and No.4 for the Bulls.
"He does understand the line-out. He runs some pretty good lines and he is a natural player."