The world champions, South Africa, warmed up for Saturday's meeting with England at Twickenham with an unconvincing victory over Italy in Rome's Olympic stadium yesterday.
The Springboks, playing their first away match since the World Cup, took a 17-6 half-time lead. In the second half, however, they looked in desperate trouble when the Italians hit back with two tries to lead 21-17.
The shock was short-lived, though, as the visitors, playing Italy for the first time, moved up a gear. But even though they have now won 15 consecutive Tests there was little in their game to alarm England.
Italy, routed 70-6 by the World Cup runners-up New Zealand last month, but with their stand-off Diego Dominguez back in action, looked a different side and the final scoreline flattered their opponents.
The Italians took the lead through a Dominguez penalty in the opening minutes and matched the visitors in the line-outs, winning possession as the Springboks hesitated.
Japie Mulder gave South Africa their first try with Francois Pienaar and Hennie Le Roux going over after the referee gave a penalty try. Joel Stransky kicked 20 points with four conversions and four penalties.
Italy, whose toughened defence repeatedly stopped the South Africans just short of the line, replied with tries from Orazio Arancio and Carlo Orlandi and could have had more.
"Today [Italy] showed that when they concentrate, they're capable of playing with anyone. The players have nothing to be ashamed of," Georges Coste, their coach, said.
Italy: Tries Arancio, Orlandi; Conversion Dominguez; Penalties Dominguez 3. South Africa: Tries Mulder, penalty try, Pienaar, Le Roux; Conversions Stransky 4; Penalties Stransky 4.
SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert; J Small, J Mulder, H Le Roux, C Williams; J Stransky, J van der Westhuizen; F Pienaar (capt), F van Heerden, R Kruger, M Andrews, K Wiese, T Laubscher, J Dalton, T van der Linde.
ITALY: F Williams; P Vaccari, S Bordon, I Francescato, N Mazzuccato; D Dominguez, A Troncon; O Arancio, A Sgorlon, M Giovanelli, M Giacheri, P Pedroni, F Porperzi Curti, C Orlandi, M Cuttitta (capt).Reuse content