Rugby: World champion Boks to face Georgia in Lions series warm-up

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Final - England v South Africa - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - November 2, 2019 South Africa's Siya Kolisi celebrates with the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the World Cup Final REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa will play their first test matches since lifting the World Cup in November 2019 when they host Georgia for two tests in July as a warm-up for the British & Irish Lions series, a major boost to new head coach Jacques Nienaber.

South Africa has been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic among the world’s leading rugby nations, with limited domestic action and an idle national side since the start of the global crisis.

There had been fears they would go into the Lions series, which will feature three tests between July 24-Aug. 7, without any international warm-up fixtures due to South Africa remaining on the ‘red list’ for travel for a number of countries.

But they will host Georgia on the weekends of July 2-3 and 9-10, with the exact venues and dates to be announced shortly, South African Rugby said on Monday.

"Jacques, his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible, and the Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said in a statement

South Africa and Georgia have only met once before in senior international competition, with the Boks running out 46-19 winners in the group stage at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

The teams had been due to meet in South Africa last year, but the match was cancelled due to the pandemic.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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