A 'destroyed' Conor O'Shea admitted that he thought that both his props could have been red-carded in the moments after Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen was dumped on his head.
As it so happens, both have been cited, with Andrea Lovotti and Nicola Quaglio both set to face the judiciary tomorrow for their involvement in the shocking tackle.
South Africa ran out comfortable 49-3 at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, but a red card tackle by Lovotti at 17–3 ended any chance the Azzurri could pull off an unlikely win.
The Italy head coach has said that the incident has left his team – and the red-carded Lovotti – distraught.
"The first thing is all of us are destroyed. South Africa were stronger than us today. At 17-3 we made this line-break and then something inexplicable happened and after the red card the match was over.
"We'd already lost two players (props Simone Ferrari and Marco Riccioni) in the first half. We said before the match that we had to do everything perfectly. We came in with confidence. You prepare for a lot of eventualities but you can't prepare for that.
"If we'd scored, you'd ask a question in the back of their minds. This wasn't them coming to Italy in the autumn, this was them coming at us when we stood in their way (of reaching the quarter-finals).
O'Shea refused to throw prop Lovotti fully under the bus. "He is more destroyed than we are. I'm disappointed for us because we've come so far, and we have a lot of young players who will benefit from a game like that. That was a day they should only learn from once they get over the disappointment."
The former Harlequins coach admitted he thought two players – Lovotti and Nicola Quaglio – could have been potentially red carded.
"When I saw it happen, I radioed down – I said it could be two."
"We didn't get the chance to show our true worth in the second half. The squad fought hard, but it is hard against a team that are stronger. It wasn't like a friendly and lots of players have learned a lot. They now know the level they must play at and, as I said before, the match was over after that red card."
Sergio Parisse was naturally disappointed at the margin of victory. "'Lovo' knows he made a huge error. We started the second half really well. At 17-3 it wasn't over. If we'd scored, then we'd be back in the match and we'd cause them little doubts. They deserved to win, but not by that much."
"I'm more disappointed than most. We now need to use this match as something to learn from in the future. We knew about the differences between the teams before the match, above all South Africa is a physical side.
"South Africa play great rugby, but you still have to play the match. We suffered in our drives and we were unable to stop theirs. A few times we couldn't bring people down and tackled too high.
"Before the red card we gave them too many lineouts inside our 22 and gave them too many penalties, which they kicked to touch and got their drive going."