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Spectator from space

South Africa’s clash against Italy will be watched by millions of fans across the planet, and one Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who will be cheering on his team from space.

Parmitano will be watching Friday’s Pool B match from the International Space Station as it orbits some 400 km above the earth.

Italy are looking to upset the Springboks and reach the knockout stages for the first time.

I believe we can create history in Japan.

Parmitano, who has been in space since July, had a message for the Italian team.

“You are a team and have to work all together to reach your goal, which is that of winning,” he said in a video posted by the European Space Agency and the Italian Rugby Federation.

It is not the first time Parmitano has broken new ground in space.

In August he became the first person to DJ in space when he played a set from the ISS for a club in Ibiza.

Boks make changes ahead of Italy clash

South Africa have made a few changes in their ranks ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.

The Boks made three changes to their first-choice pack as they brace for a muscular forward challenge from Italy.

Two of the switches are in the front row as hooker Bongi Mbonambi and experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira come in for Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff respectively.

Lock Lood de Jager, who did not start against New Zealand in their opening fixture, has also been preferred to Franco Mostert as coach Rassie Erasmus looks for continuity in the line-out after a six-day turn-around from the 57-3 victory over Namibia in Toyota City.

“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles,” Erasmus told reporters on Tuesday.

“For us this is a crunch game, it’s do-or-die. We will do what we have to do, if we have to grind it out, no matter how we do it, win with a drop-goal or something, we will do it to get out of the pool stages.”

The Boks have chosen a six-two split on the bench, overloading with forwards – hooker Marx, props Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, locks RG Snyman and Franco Mostert, and loose-forward Francois Louw, another sign that Erasmus is concerned about the battle in the pack.

It means the only backline cover comes from utility back Frans Steyn and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, but Erasmus feels they have enough versatility on the pitch to cover for any eventualities.

“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements, but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.

“It’s a 23-player game these days and the players who come on will be expected to contribute almost as much in game time as those who start among the front rowers.

“Frans can cover (number) 10, 12 and 15, Damian de Allende can play at 13, Cheslin (Kolbe) can play scrumhalf or full-back and Faf (De Klerk) can even play as a flyhalf if needed. So we have a lot of options.”

Centre Jesse Kriel has not been considered as he recovers from a hamstring injury picked up in the opening 23-13 loss to New Zealand.

Replacements: 16-Malcolm Marx, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Francois Louw, 22-Herchel Jantjies, 23-Frans Steyn.

The Italians also made changes of their own with South African-born Braam Steyn shifting from number eight to the side of the scrum to accommodate the return of talismanic captain Sergio Parisse.

The match is a must-win game for both sides as they seek a quarter-final berth and will have a knockout feel, with Parisse’s vast experience of 141 caps and five World Cups adding huge value for the Italians.

Steyn will provide muscle, South African know-how and foraging at the breakdown for what Italy coach Conor O’Shea expects to be a brutal physical battle.

“We feel this is the best squad that we could have selected based on the specific game-plan we have for South Africa, so we are very pleased to have everyone fit and available,” O’Shea told reporters in Shizuoka on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a massive physical challenge and these guys will have to front-up, otherwise we have lost the game before it has even started.”

Italy have a full haul of 10 points from their two Pool B matches but must still face New Zealand after their meeting with the Boks.

Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Jayden Hayward, 11-Michele Campagnaro, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Jake Polledri, 6-Braam Steyn, 5-Dean Budd, 4-David Sisi, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Andrea Lovotti

Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Alessandro Zanni, 21-Sebastian Negri, 22-Callum Braley, 23-Carlo Canna.

Ecstatic Japan players

Japan’s stunning victory over Japan victory put the host nation in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages and it will surely lead to an explosion of interest in Japan.

“Thank you for today!” Japan hooker Shota Horie said to the crowd after being named man of the match. “Thanks to your cheers, I was able to run to the last centimetre, the last millimetre.

“The tournament still continues, let’s fight calmly and let’s fight together. Thank you for today!”

Veteran forward Luke Thompson echoed those sentiments.

“I am so happy but it’s not finished yet,” he said. “We will concentrate for the Samoa game from tomorrow. We practised the breakdown a lot. Good team work today. I am happy.”

Coach Jamie Joseph said the stunning victory, which matched the upset of twice world champions South Africa at the last World Cup in 2015, had been long in the planning.

“We’re ecstatic about the result,” the New Zealander said.

“We’re really proud of the players, we had a plan, we’ve been training for a long time. We’ve been thinking about this game for quite a long time, obviously Ireland have been thinking about it for the last six or seven days.

“We’ve got another couple of games to go but we’ll enjoy tonight I reckon.”

Japan next face Samoa on Oct.5.

South Africa vs Namibia

South Africa claimed their first victory at the Rugby World Cup, emerging 57-3 victors over Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.

South Africa ensured that there would be no repeat of the upset earlier in the day by Japan, who beat Ireland, as they ran in nine tries in a slick display.

The Springboks next face Italy on Friday in Fukuroi City in a match that should decide second place in the pool, while Namibia face the daunting prospect of meeting New Zealand in Tokyo on Oct. 6.

Japan upset Ireland

Hosts Japan stunned Ireland 19-12 in an extraordinary upset on Saturday to win their second match of the Rugby World Cup and give themselves a strong chance of reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

The Brave Blossoms came from behind at Shizuoka Stadium to beat a side recently ranked number one in the world in a shock to match their victory over twice world champions South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

SOURCE: African News

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