The world champions beat the Lelos 40-9 in Pretoria
South Africa beat Georgia on return to Test stage
South Africa hadn’t played a Test since winning the Rugby World Cup 20 months ago, so a fair bit of rust was to be expected against Georgia. And so it proved in Pretoria.
The Springboks eventually saw off the Lelos 40-9 but they were made to work hard for that victory by the physical visitors.
It was actually Georgia who were in front for most of the first half. Three penalties from fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze to a try from Springboks debutant Aphelele Fassi gave the Lelos a 9-5 lead at Loftus Versfeld.
Then the world champions capitalised on the sin-binning of Beka Saginadze to score two tries before the break.
First hooker Bongi Mbonambi went over following a five-metre lineout and then Cobus Reinach finished off a sweeping move from the hosts’ own 22. Handré Pollard had spotted the space, the Boks shipped it wide, Fassi put in a chip kick and Reinach was able to collect to touch down under the posts.
That made it a 19-9 at half-time and after the break the Boks scored another three tries.
Kwagga Smith dived over from a five-metre scrum, Herschel Jantjies found a gap in defence from close range and then Malcolm Marx was at the back of a driving maul to get the sixth try.
Captain Siya Kolisi told Sky Sports: “We started slow, we knew we’d be rusty, but as soon as we got our mojo it came together. It was far from perfect but it’s good to be back.
“It’s a tough time for our country and hopefully this makes people smile or it’s something to look forward to on the weekend.”
There will be several facets of the performance Jacques Nienaber and his coaching team will want to address ahead of the second Test in this series in Johannesburg.
The handling was at times scrappy – to be expected after such a long time between fixtures – but of biggest concern will be the penalty count, particularly at the breakdown.
The Boks were pinged several times at the contact area when Georgia were quick to get onto the ball and that is certainly something the British & Irish Lions 2021 will have taken note of. They will be keen to exploit the Boks in that area.
Warren Gatland’s tourists play their first game of the tour tomorrow against Sigma Lions while the Boks will be focused on next Friday’s fixture against Georgia before turning their attentions to the Lions series.
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