Boks will look to put down marker
It will be an emotionally charged occasion when the Springboks return to international action against Georgia at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
After 19 months on the sidelines after their World Cup victory in Japan, the Boks will want to put down a marker against second-tier ranked opponents.
It is the first of two warm-up Tests against Georgia before the Boks come face-to-face with arch-rivals the British and Irish Lions.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused planned tours by Georgia and Scotland to be cancelled, and later the Boks pulled out of the Rugby Championship where they had been set to play Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
The traditional November tour to Europe was also canned leaving the Boks high and dry.
New SA coach Jacques Nienaber says his main priority against Georgia is to get SA’s players reacquainted with international rugby after 20 months on the sidelines.
After the Loftus opener, the Boks face Georgia for a second time in Johannesburg seven days later.
In a packed programme, the Boks then have three Tests against the Lions on successive Saturdays between July 24 and August 7.
It will be a big step up for most of SA’s players who have been restricted to domestic competition.
A large number of players in the Bok squad, however, have been competing for clubs in England, Ireland, France and Japan during lockdown.
Though Georgia are not recognised as a top-tier Test nation, they are sure to provide the Boks with stiff opposition ahead of the Lions Tests.
SA rugby fans discovered to their dismay that European teams, even lesser ones, are not walkovers.
Many had predicted the Bulls would ride roughshod over the Italian outfit Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final.
The Italians, however, had other ideas and pulled off a stunning 35-8 win over their more fancied rivals.
Well-coached European teams, with their technical and tactical awareness, will always be a threat to the perception of guaranteed southern hemisphere dominance.
That being said, Georgia can expect to find themselves at the centre of a firestorm.
Make no mistake, the Boks will be looking to reassert themselves as world rugby’s dominant power.
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