British & Irish Lions

Bok coach Nienaber expects challenge from Georgia's big units: 'They are a proper side'

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Jacques Nienaber
Jacques Nienaber
Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said their Friday opponents would present a "nice challenge" in the first of two Tests at Loftus.

The Boks haven't played a Test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final after the global pandemic threw the rugby calendar into disarray.

READ | Injury update: Springbok locks De Jager and Snyman still on the mend

South Africa also opted out of playing last year's Rugby Championship in Australia, meaning it would be exactly 20 months from the famous day at Yokohama International Stadium since they kicked a rugby ball.

"Georgia are ranked 12th in the world for a reason," said Nienaber.

"We did some excellent homework on them, and if you look at their performances in the Autumn Nations Cup, the score was close after 75 minutes with Wales.

"They are a proper side, and we will really need to work hard to get our foothold in the game. They are very good at their tight phases, scrums, lineouts, mauling, have good carriers and are a proud rugby nation.

"It's going to be a nice challenge for us in our first outing."

Georgia are famous for their bruising forwards, physicality and confrontational style, especially come scrum time.

They are expected to present the Springboks with something akin to the physicality that is anticipated during the British and Irish Lions later in July.

Georgia head coach Levan Maisashvili, who named his match 23 on Wednesday, said they were looking to spread their game further than their traditional strong pack.

He added that they had thrown some Under-20 players in the mix, too, to blood competition in their ranks.

"It's a big honour for us to play against the world champions," said Levan Maisashvili.

"We will take a lot of experience from the two matches. We have a young team, and we have tried to develop depth in the squad and create competition between the players.

"The two games [against the Springboks] will give us a lot of experience on how to play against good teams.

"We have brought in ex-Under-20 players who played against the strongest nations at that level. They are young, but we hope they will develop their game and take a lot of experience from this game.

"Our forwards have always been the strongest part of our game, but we know we are not playing against a weak team. We are playing a team that has the best forwards in the world.

"We obviously cannot play with only forwards. If you want to compete against the strongest teams, you have to use both forwards and backs.

"I hope our backs can show what we can do."

The Boks haven't held back from picking a strong tight five either, with in-form No 1 Ox Nche partnering tight-head Trevor Nyakane in the front-row and Eben Etzebeth reuniting with Franco Mostert in the second-row.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

Georgia

15 Davit Niniashvili, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Demur Tapladze, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhaidze, 8 Tornike Jalagonia, 7 Beka Saginadze, 6 Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Gigauri Davit, 3 Giorgi Melikidze, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Guram Gogichashvili 

Substitutes16 Giorgi Chkoidze, 17 Nikoloz Khatiashvili, 18 Luka Japaridze, 19 Nodar Cheishvili, 20 Giorgi Javakhia, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Giorgi Babunashvili, 23 Ilia Spanderashvili

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