Friday will see an interesting turn-up for the books as the Springboks will host Georgia for the first time on South African soil.
It is, in fact, a rivalry very much in its infancy as the teams have faced each other just once in the past – 18 years ago in Australia during the 2003 World Cup. It was an historic game with which neither side would have been satisfied as the final whistle blew. The Springboks won comfortably, 46-19, but it was not a clinical performance from a team experiencing difficulties.
General consensus was that the Georgians gave good account of themselves against their Springbok opponents – not a bad result for such a young rugby nation.
Friday evening’s clash will be, of course, be a very different story between two very different teams. This time around, the Springboks will face Georgia as World Champions, although it will be their first test match since 2019. The last time the green & gold was in action was the most recent World Cup final against England in Japan, and 18 of that squad will be in action this week.
Meanwhile, the Georgians have been in action and have strung together an impressive run of results. They are unbeaten in the Rugby Europe Championship, their last encounter was a comfortable victory against the Netherlands, thereby being crowned 2021 champions.
Georgia face an altogether different challenge on Friday evening than what they have dealt with in the second division of Europe, however. Their first encounter with the Springboks on South African will take place on the Highveld at the fortress of Loftus Versveld in Pretoria. Although the usual passionate crowd of supporters will not be in attendance, it is a venue at which the Springboks are confident and express themselves freely within the context of their traditional strengths.
The Georgian pack will have to front up and kick up a gear to compete with the likes of Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert and the ever-industrious Kwagga Smith.
In the backs, the Montpellier duo of Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard will dictate the tempo of the game when ball is in their possession while the experienced and valuable Frans Steyn will be partnered by Jesse Kriel in the midfield. Out wide, two new caps will have their chance to impress as Aphelele Fassi and Rosko Specman attempt to unleash their wonderful attacking skills while the wily old head of Willie Le Roux dons the number 15 jersey once again.
It will be a shock result if Georgia emerge victorious in this one. Although the Springboks are severely lacking game time at the top level, it is expected that the shrewd duo of Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus will have put their charges through the required paces to make this game their own.