Bongi Mbonambi admits that it has been a difficult time since due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has kept the Boks off the field. That’s why they will need to be at their sharpest against Georgia.
CAPE TOWN – THE Springboks’ first Test match as world champions is just seven days away.
Having last played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England, it has been a long road for the South Africans to reach this point.
And while most of the focus has been on the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour, the Boks have been hard at work during their training camp in Bloemfontein to get ready for Friday’s first Test against Georgia at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria (7pm kick-off).
Coach Jacques Nienaber has said that he will select his strongest possible team to take on the ‘Lelos’, and that should mean Bongi Mbonambi will be wearing the No.2 jersey.
— Springboks (@Springboks) June 25, 2021
Mbonambi forced his way into the starting line-up for the big World Cup games, from Italy onwards, through sheer weight of performance after Malcolm Marx was preferred in the defeat to the All Blacks in Yokohama.
But the 30-year-old admits that it has been a difficult time since due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has kept the Boks off the field.
That is why they will need to be at their sharpest against Georgia instead of thinking about the Lions already.
“Before we head into the Lions series, we definitely have to focus on Georgia. From the clips that we’ve seen as forwards, they do have a quality scrumming pack. They scrum very low, and I think we definitely have to (make adjustments) on our side,” Mbonambi said from Bloemfontein.
“We have been working hard these past two weeks by putting everything into place to make sure everything is aligned and on the same page.
“In terms of playing international rugby again, we as South Africans enjoy the physicality side of it.
“But we know there is a massive difference between playing local games and going into a Test week. From the looks of it, there is a great feeling, and the boys are ready and looking forward to stepping it up a bit more.”
While the overseas-based players have faced clubs who have multiple internationals from different countries in their teams, the SA-based Boks have been tackling each other in the Super Rugby Unlocked, Currie Cup and Rainbow Cup SA.
The standard of rugby left much to be desired in the first two tournaments, although the quality was much better in the third.
But as the Bulls’ defeat to Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final showed, we will only know where the Boks are in their readiness for the Lions series once they have played a game.
“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that there is a massive difference between playing a local competition and heading into an international series. The difference is very vast, and the intensity is 10 times higher than just playing a local team,” Mbonambi said.
“Jacques Nienaber, Rassie (Erasmus) and all the other coaches have just made sure that everyone just gets back to that high international intensity.
“Over the past few days, we have been feeling it in our bodies, and you can just feel the whole difference between training at your local franchise and coming into a Springbok set-up. I’m 100% sure that our bodies will be ready for that kind of intensity, the way we are training now.”