Scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze could be a deciding factor when Georgia play Namibia in Gloucester on Wednesday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
With the top three teams of each pool guaranteed automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup, Georgia are vying with Tonga for third spot in Pool C. But they need to finish strongly by beating Namibia first.
One player who could help them achieve that, is the 18-year-old Lobzhanidze. The teen protégé entered the tournament as an unknown, but has more than held his own against more seasoned campaigners.
Starting in Georgia's first two matches, he proved to be a menace for both Tonga and Argentina. He also played exceptionally well when he came off the bench in their defeat to the All Blacks. Now, against Namibia, the World Cup's youngest ever participant is ready to show just why coach Milton Haig has chosen him over more experienced players.
Namibia played well in patches against the All Blacks and Tonga, but have failed to impress overall. However, captain Jacques Burger and his charges will see this match as the best opportunity yet to break their duck.
Burger scored two tries against New Zealand. If he can recreate that form for this clash, while continuing to lead from the front with the same defensive big hits, the Welwitchias' chances of securing their first ever World Cup victory will increase substantially.
Haig has made 10 changes to Georgia's starting XV, while Namibia's Phil Davies swapped around six for their penultimate match.
LOBZHANIDZE'S STATS THAT MATTER
9 – Test caps
3 – World Cup matches
77 – Passes in this tournament
18 – Kicks from hand
16 – Tackles made
HEAD TO HEAD
Georgia 3, Namibia 1
Namibia – 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 David Philander, 13 Danie Van Wyk, 12 Darryl de la Harpe, 11 Russel van Wyk, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Tinus du Plessis, 6 Jacques Burger (c), 5 Tjiuee Uanivi, 4 PJ van Lill, 3 Raoul Larson, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Johnny Redelinghuys.
Subs: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Wian Conradie, 20 Rohan Kitshoff, 21 Johan Tromp, 22 Damian Stevens, 23 Heinrich Smit.
Georgia – 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Malaguradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 7 Viktor Kolelishvili, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Subs: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Levan Datunashvili, 20 Lasha Lomidze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 23 Beka Tsiklauri.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: David Jones/Getty Images