Springboks to play Georgia in first Test since winning World Cup

South Africa will meet Georgia on 2 or 3 July and 9 or 10, then tackle the Lions on 24 and 31 July and 7 August. Venues for both series will be announced later.

Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi scores a try in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match against Japan on 20 October 2019. Picture: @Springboks/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - World champions South Africa will play for the first time since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 when they host Georgia in a two-Test series this July, SA Rugby announced Monday.

The Springboks are preparing for three matches against the touring British and Irish Lions later in July and August.

South Africa will meet Georgia on 2 or 3 July and 9 or 10, then tackle the Lions on 24 and 31 July and 7 August. Venues for both series will be confirmed later.

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented South Africa from playing since they defeated England 32-12 in Japan to lift the World Cup a record-equalling third time.

"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," said director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

Former Springbok Erasmus coached the World Cup-winning squad and has since returned to his original role with Jacques Nienaber appointed head coach early last year.

"Jacques, his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible," Erasmus said.

"The Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to Covid-19."

Nienaber said: "The confirmation of the Georgian Tests, and the announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad last week have caused a lot of excitement.

"I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby."

The Springboks have played European second-tier side Georgia only once, winning 46-19 at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.

South Africa are ranked first in the world and Georgia 12th.

Senior Georgian official Lasha Khurtsidze said the series stemmed from growing friendship and co-operation between rugby officials in the two countries.

"Playing against them is a great honour for us," he said.

"We have only played the Springboks once before and scored the first try of the match. A lot of time has passed since, they are the current world champions and we have developed as well."

Cape Town, Soweto and Johannesburg, in that order, were the original venues for the Lions Tests, but there has been speculation of changes.

Cape Town could stage the first Test instead of the second, with the other two at the 95,000-capacity FNB Stadium in Soweto.

Discussions are ongoing between rugby and government officials over the possibility of fans attending with SA Rugby hoping to at least half fill stadiums.

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