CAPE TOWN - At last, the world champions are back! The Springboks, who have not played a single game since winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup, will be in action in early July to prepare for the upcoming British and Irish Lions series.
SA Rugby announced on Monday that Jacques Nienaber’s debut Test will be against Georgia on the weekend of July 2-3, with the second match to follow a week later.
Exact dates and venues will be confirmed in due course.
The announcement will come as a major relief for Nienaber, after a possible Test series against the United States could not be organised, while there were also rumours of Italy and Scotland visiting South Africa.
If no games were scheduled, Nienaber would have had to face the Lions in his opening Test, which would have been a daunting task, considering that the Boks were unable to play since November 2, 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Boks faced Georgia once before, in the 2003 World Cup in Australia, which ended with a 46-19 score-line in favour of Rudolf Straeuli’s team.
“The confirmation of the Georgian Tests, and the announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad last week, have caused a lot of excitement, and I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby,” Nienaber said in a statement on Monday.
The former defence coach told SuperSport last week, following the Lions squad announcement, that he hopes to name his first Bok squad in early June. While the Rainbow Cup SA ends on June 12, a number of the overseas-based stars might be in camp at home earlier than that, depending on when their seasons are completed.
“Nothing beats a full-blooded international to test your skill set, readiness and ability under pressure, and we are delighted to have this opportunity before the Lions series,” SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said.
“Jacques, his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible, and the Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The first Lions Test is scheduled for July 24, with the venue still to be confirmed as SA Rugby must still decide whether the tour will take place in bio-bubbles or continue as previously stated.