Georgia won’t be pushovers for Boks
SECURING Georgia as opponents before the British & Irish Lions series might prove to be ideal opposition for the Springboks.
SA Rugby announced yesterday that the Eastern European nation will play two Test matches for the first time against the Boks in South Africa in July, having lost 46-19 to them at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
The first Test is scheduled for the weekend of July 2-3, with the second a week later, with exact dates, kickoff times and venues to be decided. Those decisions will be influenced by what happens with the Lions tour fixtures, as they are currently pencilled in to face the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3, and the Sharks in Durban on July 10.
That could change in the coming weeks, with SA Rugby waiting on word from government on whether fans will be allowed into stadiums for the Lions tour, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
They have applied for 50% capacity, with sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa emphasising recently that only the government’s national Covid-19 command council can make the final decision.
The Georgia Tests will be the first for new Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber, as his team have not played since that memorable November 2019 night in Yokohama, Japan, where they beat England 32-12 in the World Cup final.
“The confirmation of the Georgian Tests, and the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad last week have caused a lot of excitement, and I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby,” Nienaber said yesterday.
But Georgians won’t be pushovers. They are currently ranked 12th in the world, above the likes of Tonga, Samoa, Italy and the USA. They achieved their best ever finish at a World Cup at the 2019 tournament, where they ended fourth in Pool D after beating Uruguay, while also giving Australia a tough encounter in a 27-8 defeat.
They are renowned for their physicality, particularly in the scrums, and have produced top international club players such as loose forward Mamuka Gorgodze, who excelled in France, and leading points-scorer and utility back, Merab Kvirikashvili.
Facing such a team would certainly ensure that the undercooked Boks will encounter the necessary intensity upfront to prepare them for the expected physical onslaught from the Lions.
“Nothing beats a full-blooded international to test your skill set, readiness and ability under pressure, and we are delighted to have this opportunity before the Lions series,” SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said.
“Jacques, his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible, and the Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”