DURBAN – As the first of two warm-up games before the first Test against the Lions on July 24, this game more than served its purpose in not just brushing off cobwebs but also instilling in the minds of the Springboks that they have an Everest to climb if they are to win the series against the British and Irish tourists.
Just over a week ago, the Lions warmed up against Japan in a fixture that was a world away from this training ground exercise at Loftus Versfeld in terms of intensity and pace, and the Boks will wake up in the morning knowing that while they are world champions, right now they are not world-beaters.
And that is a handy place for the Boks to be right now. Any hint of complacency there might have been has been banished and they know the magnitude of the task ahead of them if they are to regain the poise that saw them brush off England in what seems like an eternity ago.
6️⃣ tries to none tells one side of the story, and although it wasn't perfect, the Boks are on the board with a good win over @GeorgianRugby— Springboks (@Springboks) July 2, 2021
➡️ Match report: https://t.co/5pGSVVrAD4#CastleLionsSeries #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/xWi2RH17Os
It is in fact 20-months since that World Cup final and the Boks could not be expected to hit the ground running, and stumble they did for 30 minutes before some of the rust broke off and they scored two impressive tries, one a forward rumble that propelled hooker Bongi Mbonambi over the line for one of his trademark scores; and the second a backline breakout from the Boks’ half that had Aphelele Fassi scorching down the touchline before chipping inside for that lethal predator Cobus Reinach to gather and finish neatly.
Back in the fifth minute of the game, Fassi had celebrated the most memorable of first touches in the green and gold when he scampered down the line, evading a clutch of defenders, to score at the corner flag.
But that was about it for the Boks in a first half an hour where they struggled in the set scrums and rhythm in their play eluded them.
The fiery Georgians were “not there to make up the numbers”, as their coach said midweek, and they were deserved 9-5 leaders as halftime approached after flyhalf Tedo Abzhanadze had been spot on with three penalties.
💪 It's all over at Loftus Versfeld and the Boks have celebrated their return to the Test arena with a 40-9 win over @GeorgianRugby - not perfect, but some moments of brilliance by the Rugby World Cup champions.#CastleLionsSeries #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/fjFmxD0c96— Springboks (@Springboks) July 2, 2021
The unexpected catalyst for the Boks finding their groove was a sudden advance in a set scrum that earned a penalty for Handre Pollard to stake prime territory, eventuating in Mbonambi’s try.
After the break, the Georgian challenge fell away, especially up front where the growing Bok ascendancy paved the way for NO 8 Kwagga Smith to wrestle over while replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantijies had the freedom from close quarters to dart over unopposed.
By this point Malcolm Marx was on and he barged over in similar fashion to the man he had replaced, Mbonambi to complete the scoring.
Springboks – 40: Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Bongi Mbonambi, Cobus Reinach, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Malcolm Marx. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Elton Jantjies (1).
Georgia – 9: Penalties: Tedo Abzhanadze (3)