The Springboks shook off a rusty start to put six tries past Georgia in a 40-9 victory to give Jacques Nienaber a winning start as head coach. DYLAN JACK reports.
The first half was a bit of a mixed bag from Nienaber’s troops, despite their 19-9 lead. The rustiness and nerves were evident as they knocked the ball on from the first kick-off and conceded a subsequent penalty as Georgia took a 3-0 lead.
Despite firing back as Aphelele Fassi did excellently to score off his first touch in Test rugby, the Boks took around 30 or so minutes to get going. Georgia forced the hosts to concede penalty after penalty and punished them, taking a 9-5 lead. In whole, the Boks conceded a concerning seven penalties in the first half.
However, the game changed around the 31st minute as the Boks built the pressure with their driving mauls. It eventually told as Bongi Mbonambi went over for their second try.
Off the following kick-off, the Boks attacked and Fassi did well to hold onto a tricky pass out wide and boot the ball back into midfield. Cobus Reinach followed up and latched onto the loose ball, sprinting through to score under the posts.
The Springboks brought their new front row on early in the second half and it paid off as they started dominate, eventually earning a try as Kwagga Smith broke from behind and scored.
In an interesting move, Damian Willemse was brought on at 12, replacing Frans Steyn. He almost scored with his first touch when gathering a Pollard grubber but did well to recycle, allowing Herschel Jantjies to snipe and go over for the Boks’ fifth try.
Georgia simply had no answer for the Springboks’ “Bomb squad” as another powerful driving maul saw Malcolm Marx grab the sixth and final try of the match.
Players that shone:
Aphelele Fassi did not get a heck of a lot of service on debut, but he made just about every touch of the ball count. He scored off his first touch and did so well to set up the Boks’ third.
Siya Kolisi put in a proper shift, raising his game as he returned to Test level. The Boks captain was tireless at the breakdown and put in a good number of tackles.
His back row partner Pieter-Steph du Toit also had a solid outing, setting up Fassi’s try.
Frans Malherbe changed the dimension of the scrum battle when replacing Nyakane around the 30th minute. The Springbok pack was noticeably more dominant at the scrum with him and his fellow front row replacements -Kitshoff and Marx – on the field.
As previously stated, Fassi was the pick of Friday evening’s debutants.
Unfortunately, as hard as Rosko Specman worked, he wasn’t always given the best final ball from his teammates. The winger was unlucky not to grab a try as he got himself into excellent try scoring positions, but constantly received shocking passes.
When he came on halfway into the second half, Jasper Wiese wasted no time in making his presence felt. The big No 8 made some strong carries off first phase in a bright start to life on the Test scene.