CAPTION: New South African coach Jacques Nienaber has no other plans for his country’s first match since winning the World Cup than to reconnect players with international rugby after 20 months without him.
The Springboks face Georgia in Pretoria on July 2 in the first of two tests ahead of the Lions’ UK and Irish tour.
“I think the first test will be, ‘let’s get used to international rugby again,'” Nienaber said at a press conference on Monday as the world champions continued their preparations for the Lions at a camp. ‘training.
“For us, you just have to get used to the rhythm of the game, the physicality of the game, the small margins of international rugby, because it’s going to be very different from club rugby.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of a planned tour of Scotland and the South Africans withdrawing from last year’s rugby championship against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. There was also no traditional November tour of Europe.
The test against Georgia will be their first game since winning the World Cup, beating England 32-12 in Yokohama on November 2, 2019.
South Africa hosts the first test at Loftus Versfeld and the second at Ellis Park in Johannesburg seven days later. They have three tests against the Lions on successive Saturdays between July 24 and August 7.
The majority of South African players have been restricted to domestic competition over the past year, but there is also a large contingent of Boks, who play at clubs in England, Ireland, France and Japan, and have been selected in a great team for the Lions. series.
Toulouse duo Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt will miss the first test against Georgia after their club advance to the Top 14 final on June 25.
“They will hopefully enter South Africa on Monday or Tuesday thereafter. We will play this Friday, so that will give them very little time to get back to the mix and the way we do things,” Nienaber said.
(Edited by Ed Osmond)