Italy may be ranked 11th in the world, but they claimed big scalps this year beating Wales and Australia, and Smith expected them to produce another quality performance this weekend, especially with both teams using every Test as preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

“Many teams underestimate Italy and when they arrive here, they are surprised in the first few minutes,” said Smith.

“They are a good team and they’ve had good wins this year, so we have to make sure we pitch up with the right mindset and do our best on the field.

“Their results have certainly created awareness among us about the challenge they will pose going into the weekend. Their results against Wales and Australia were a wake-up call to show us that it won’t be easy.”

Smith added: “They brought in a few young players after the Rugby World Cup and they are strong in the scrums and lineouts, so we know we are in for a tough match.”

Smith admitted that while the Springboks’ last two results against Ireland and France were bitterly disappointing, there were vital lessons they took out of those matches.

“From our perspective we come off two close results against the first and second ranked teams in the world, and we feel those results could have gone either way, as there were a few errors that cost us as a team,” he said.

“The important thing we took from those games is to make sure we improve on our processes and systems and get better.”

With the competition for places being intense in the Springbok team and a handful of players also putting up their hands in the SA ‘A’ team, and at their provincial unions, Smith admitted the players had to work as hard as possible to be in the mix for selection, but he enjoyed the competition.

“South Africa has a rich culture of loose forwards, so for me it is important to just keep growing as a player,” said Smith.

“I like a challenge and it is good for us to have competition in the team. This week for example we have been trying to simplify things for Evan, so that he can just get onto the field and do his job.”

The Springboks had Thursday off to rest and recuperate and will return to the field on Friday for their captains run.