The Springbok blueprint will remain the same against Georgia - dominate, subdue, crush
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JOHANNESBURG - The Georgians love a good old fashioned wrestle on the rugby field, a scrap between the big men, a battle of strength versus strength, and grappling for dominance by using their powerful forwards to fight at every breakdown, scrum and lineout.
Now, it might be 20 months to the day since the Springboks played a Test match, and 18 years since the last time South Africa played the Caucasus-nation, but that is exactly what Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and captain Siya Kolisi are expecting: A power-struggle up-front. Both believe they will have the firepower to match the Lelos … after all it is the foundation upon which the South African game is built.
"There are certain things that we cannot change," said Stick when asked about the team's game plan against the Georgians. "We are still playing in-between the four lines, and we have to select 15 players, we have eight players on the bench. There are certain things that we can't change.
"When it comes to our plan, we do want to take the game forward but there are certain things as South Africans we can't neglect. When it comes to the physical side of the game, it is a part of our DNA. We normally have big, physical forwards and guys that can really dominate the collision. So, that is one of our strengths and I don't think we are going to drift away from it.
"We are going to be challenged on that because we know the Georgians take a lot of pride when it comes to the physical side of the game," he said. "They've got very solid set-pieces and also when it comes to them being motivated to play against the Springboks, we know they are going to come out hard against us."
It was a sentiment shared by the Bok captain as well.
Said Kolisi: "Our game plan hasn't changed.
"There have been a few tweaks here and there," the skipper continued, "but we will be the same in our physicality, our workrate, all the stuff you don't need talent for that's all hard work ... We are looking for warriors in the team, so not much of that has changed.
"Obviously, we want to make sure that we do everything we can within the system … The coaches want the players to be able to express themselves but we will still focus on what we do."
It should come as no surprise to any that the Boks will fall back onto what South African rugby knows best tonight at Loftus Versveld. It won them the 2019 Rugby World Cup and with a whopping 29 players that lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy still a part of this current squad, and the brainstrust carried over through the appointment of Jacques Nienaber, the first Test against Georgia should give a solid indication what the tactics will be going forward.
The three-Test match series against the British & Irish Lions is still some weeks away, and although these Georgian encounters will inform the manner in which the Boks play this month, both Stick and Kolisi assured the media yesterday that they are fully focussed on the task at hand.
After all, systems need to be tested, players' fitness and form gauged, and debutants Rosko Specman, Aphelele Fassi and Jasper Wiese exposed to international rugby and assessed. For the equally powerful Bok backline to be unleashed, the Georgians will have to be subdued up-front first.
The Boks certainly know how to do that. It is in their DNA.
Springboks starting XV: Willie le Roux, Rosko Specman, Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn, Aphelele Fassi, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche;
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Marvin Orie, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse
Georgia starting XV: David Niniashvili, Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (capt), Demur Tapladze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Saginadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Kote Mikautadze, David Gigauri, Giorgi Melikidze, Jaba Bregvadze, Guram Gogichashvili;
Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze, Nikoloz Khatiashvili, Luka Japaridze, Nodar Cheishvili, Giorgi Javakhia; Gela Aprasidze, Giorgi Babunashvili; Ilia Spanderashvili