The Springboks’ two-match Test series at home against Georgia in July will serve as ideal preparation for the British and Irish Lions series, believed SA Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
SA Rugby announced on Monday that Georgia will face the Boks in the first two weeks of July, on 2/3 July and 9/10 July, with the specific dates still to be confirmed.
“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,” said Erasmus.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and his coaching staff and management will finally make their debut as national coaches – which will be the Boks first action since the 2019 World Cup.
“Jacques and his team 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,” Erasmus said.
The series will mark the first time Georgia will tour South Africa, while the two Tests will also be the first time the two countries will meet since their only previous clash, at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Nienaber said the confirmation of the Georgian Tests, and the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad last week have caused a lot of excitement.
“I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby,” said Nienaber.
Lasha Khurtsidze, the Georgian vice-president for High Performance and Development, described the forthcoming series as a result of the growing friendship and cooperation between the rugby authorities in Georgia and South Africa.
“Playing against them is a great honor for us,” said Khurtsidze.
“We have only played the Springboks once before, in our first Rugby World Cup appearance in 2003, when we scored the first try,” he said.
“A lot of time has passed since then, they are the current world champions and we have developed as well,” he said.
A revised programme of men’s Test matches – headlined by the Lions Series – is set to take place in July after all national unions and World Rugby agreed to a revised schedule within the existing window.
“While there is light at the end of the tunnel in respect to COVID-19 in many nations, the challenges continue to be present, dynamic and impactful,” said World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.
“Fans around the world can now look forward to an exciting bumper schedule of men’s Test matches involving at least 24 teams, which will be a welcome sight for everyone,” he said.