Kolisi wants return of ‘warrior’ Boks

THE WAY IT WAS: Siya Kolisi, left, and Elton Jantjies during the Springbok team captains run at St Stithians on Thursday in Johannesburg

Captain Siya Kolisi has challenged the Springboks to be “warriors” and says it will be more of the same when they host Georgia in their first Test for 20 months on Friday, with his side set to adopt the plan that won them the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The Boks are using two Tests against Georgia to build towards the three-match British and Irish Lions series that starts on July 24, and slipping straight back into gear as quickly as possible is at the forefront of their minds.

“Our game plan has not changed, a few tweaks here and there, but we will keep the physicality and the work rate, things you don’t need talent for.

“We are looking for warriors,” Kolisi said on Thursday.

“The coaches do want the players to express themselves, but the focus must be on the main game plan.”

That is likely to mean forward domination with a heavy pack and the tactical kicking game of scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who starts in place of first-choice Faf de Klerk.

The Lions series looms large, but Kolisi has warned his side not to get ahead of themselves and for now they are only thinking about Georgia, who bring a physicality that will test them.

“We need to get onto the field and make sure we win.

“We need to make sure the combinations, systems and plans are working.

“We can’t think so far ahead [about the Lions], we know it is coming but we have to look only at Friday.”

The Boks have retained 29 players from their World Cup-winning squad, but there will be new caps for wings Rosko Specman and Aphelele Fassi against Georgia.

After so long without fixtures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Kolisi said there would be many in the camp suffering from nerves, including himself.

“It feels like it is a first game for all of us after so long. And once you’ve tasted it, you don’t want it to stop.

“You play for your union as hard as you can, because you know what the ultimate goal is, and that is to wear the green and gold.

“You learn such a lot about yourself, and I love that.”

Georgia have named a largely settled team that boast four players with more than 50 caps in the starting line-up for their clash against the Springboks.

Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili selected an unchanged backline but made three changes to his pack from the team that drubbed the Netherlands 48-15 last weekend in a Rugby Europe Championship matchup.

Guram Gogichashvili has been introduced at loosehead prop‚ while Giorgi Tsutskiridze and Tornike Jalagonia have been added to the back row‚ with Jalagonia packing down at No 8.

They delivered a performance against the Netherlands that would have served them well in preparation for the two-Test series against the Springboks.

They scored eight tries in their victory over the Dutch.

Georgia‚ who are 12th in the world rankings‚ will rely heavily on the experience of centre and captain Merab Sharikadze (78 caps)‚ scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze (58)‚ lock Kote Mikautadze (67) and hooker Jaba Bregvadze (66).

In 22-year-old flyhalf Tedo Abzhandadze, they have a proven match-winner.

He joined Brive in France in 2019‚ a year after making his Test debut aged 19.

Apart from the grunt of their forwards, Abzhandadze’s partnership with Lobzhanidze will be central to the Lelos’ fortunes in the series.

By Nick Said — Reuters

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