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Zebre duo cross in historic Azzurri win as Guinness PRO12 players shine across Europe

Italy produced one of the greatest wins in their history by beating South Africa in Florence and coach Conor O’Shea insists this is just the beginning for the Azzurri.

The Irishman took over the Italian national side this summer and has been working closely with Kieran Crowley and Gianluca Guidi at Benetton Treviso and Zebre respectively.

And a team in which 12 Guinness PRO12 players started claimed a first-ever victory over the Springboks, thanks to tries from Dries van Schalkwyk and Giovanbattista Venditti, as well as Carlo Canna’s boot.

Italy will now take on Tonga in their final game of the November Tests, and O’Shea is confident that they can build on the performance.

Dries Van Schalkwyk scores a try 31/10/2015

Zebre’s Dries van Schalkwyk scored Italy’s first try against South Africa

O’Shea said: “I’m proud of my team, they deserved to win. It’s an incredible squad. I’m delighted for the team and the fans but this is just the start for us.

“We have done a lot and there is a lot to do.

“We have a lot to work on, we made a lot of mistakes.

“It’s something of a rollercoaster. Our discipline wasn’t perfect but it’s the start of our journey.

“There is a lot to do, this win is for the players and the fans. But there is a lot that can make Italy a great rugby nation. There will be lots of highs and lows but we’ll enjoy this.”

Italy were not the only team to produce a dramatic late victory, with Scotland and Wales also finishing strongly.

Scotland were grateful to Greig Laidlaw for a late penalty in their 19-16 victory over Argentina, with flanker Magnus Bradbury getting his debut.

The 21-year-old has been hugely impressive for Edinburgh so far this season and was given his chance by Vern Cotter as a result.

And the youngster was thrilled at getting the opportunity, even if he admitted the first minutes were something of a blur.

“Yeah it was incredible. Everybody says how quick it’s going to be,” said Bradbury.

“I noticed the pace in those first couple of phases. It was unbelievably quick.

“I was a bit overwhelmed to be honest, it was pretty surreal out on the pitch. But I got my head down and just tried to do what I do.

“It is special to get your first cap, I’m so happy but at the end of the day, it’s just another game of rugby and you’ve got to focus on what the team need to do and what you need to do yourself to make as big an impact as possible.

“It all flew by but when you’re out on that pitch, you know that you need to focus and just do what you do.”

Wales found themselves in a real battle against Japan, but it was 23-year-old Sam Davies, in just his second Test, who won the game for them.

With the teams level at 30-30, the Ospreys fly-half slotted the most nerveless of drop goals to secure victory for his team, and he was delighted to have the opportunity.

“I was just thankful to get the opportunity to do it, hero or villain. Thankfully I was the hero,” he said.

“It’s the kind of kick you visualise, winning a game for Wales.

“In fairness to the boys, they set a good platform for me to put the drop goal over. The message came on, but I already knew it may come down to a drop goal [after Japan levelled at 30-all].”

©INPHO/Camerasport/Craig Thomas

©INPHO/Camerasport/Craig Thomas

Young players from the Guinness PRO12 were getting their chance across Europe, with Leinster’s Josh van der Flier again called into action early for Ireland.

A fortnight after coming against the All Blacks in Chicago, he was a first-half replacement for CJ Stander, and stepped up to the challenge.

While the Irish were beaten 21-9, van der Flier relished the chance to play on the highest stage and build on his Leinster performances.

He said: “You never really know how you’ll be at that level until you’ve played it so from that perspective it’s good to finally play against teams like that.

“I know I played against England last year but doing it once, you want to see if it was a once-off or if you can stand up at that level. There were positives to take from it but I had a few sloppy moments. A bit to work on.”

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final