CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – New South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has few other plans for his country’s first game since winning the World Cup than to get players reacquainted with international rugby after 20 months without it.
The Springboks play Georgia in Pretoria on July 2 in the first of two tests before the British and Irish Lions tour.
“I think that first test will be, ‘let’s just used to international rugby again’,” Nienaber told a news conference on Monday as the world champions continued their preparations for the Lions at a training camp.
“For us it’s just let’s get used to the pace of the game, the physicality of the game, the small margins in international rugby, because it is going to be a lot different to club rugby.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a planned tour by Scotland to be cancelled and the South Africans to pull out of last year’s Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. There was also no traditional November tour to Europe.
The test against Georgia will be their first match since they won the World Cup, beating England 32-12 in Yokohama on Nov. 2, 2019.
South Africa host 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 Aug. 7.
The majority of South Africa’s players have been restricted to domestic competition over the last year but there is also a sizeable contingent of Boks, who play at clubs in England, Ireland, France and Japan, and have been selected in a large squad for the Lions series.
The Toulouse-based duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt will miss the first test against Georgia after their club progressed to the Top 14 final on June 25.
“They will hopefully be getting into South Africa either on Monday or Tuesday thereafter. We will be playing that Friday, so that will leave them very little time to get back into the mix and our way of doing things,” Nienaber said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)