Georgia name experienced team to front Boks

Georgia head coach Levan Maisashvili has named their 23-man squad for the first Test against the Springboks in Pretoria on Friday.

The Lelos are coming into the match on the back of a 48-15 victory over the Netherlands in Telavi last weekend, in a Rugby Europe Championship match, where they scored a total of eight tries, with Davit Niniashvili (fullback) scoring a hat-trick and Akaki Tabutsadze (right wing) adding a brace.

Georgia have featured at every Rugby World Cup since 2003 and comprehensively beat Uruguay 33-9 in their RWC pool game in Japan in 2019, and four years earlier, in England in 2015, the Lelos were too strong for Namibia (17-16) and Tonga (17-10).

They are currently 12th in the world rankings, just below Fiji and higher than Tonga, Samoa and Italy.

The team will be captained by 28-year-old inside centre Merab Sharikadze, who plays in France’s ProD2 and will earn his 78th Test cap, and features just one debutant: replacement prop Luka Japaridze.

Vasil Lobzhanidze and Tedo Abzhandadze form a halfback combination that features 83 caps between them.

Sharikadze will team up with Giorgi Kveseladze in midfield, while Aka Tabutsadze and Mirian Modebadze will play on the wings and David Niniashvili at fullback.

Georgia’s forward pack features 66-cap hooker Jaba Bregvadze, who South Africans will know from his time in Super Rugby with the Sunwolves. Bregvadze is flanked by Stade Francais tighthead Giorgi Melikidze and Racing 92 loosehead Guram Gogichashvili.

In the second row, Toulon lock Kote Mikautadze, set to win his 68th Test cap for Georgia, is joined by Davit Gigauri. Georgia’s back row also features three France-based players in Beka Saginadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze and No 8 Tornike Jalagonia.

Georgia have opted for a six-two split between forwards and backs on the bench. There are two second-row replacements in Nodar Cheishvili and Giorgi Javakhia, while scrumhalf Gela Aprasidze and flyhalf Giorgi Babunashvil are the backline replacements.

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Georgia – 15. David Niniashvili (6 caps, 20 points), 14. Akaki Tabutsadze (12 caps, 55 points), 13. Giorgi Kveseladze (34 caps, 25 points), 12. Merab Sharikadze (კაპ. 77 caps, 60 points), 11. Demur Tapladze (9 caps, 5 points), 10. Tedo Abzhandadze (25 caps, 162 points), 9. Vasil Lobzhanidze (58 caps, 50 points), 8. Tornike Jalagonia (9 caps, 10 points), 7. Beka Saginadze (21 caps, 15 points), 6. Giorgi Tsutskiridze (21 caps, 15 points), 5. Kote Mikautadze (67 caps, 10 points), 4. David Gigauri (11 caps, 5 points), 3. Giorgi Melikidze (28 caps, 15 points), 2. Jaba Bregvadze (66 caps, 25 points), 1. Guram Gogichashvili (22 caps, 10 points).
Subs: 16. Giorgi Chkoidze (16 caps, 5 points), 17. Nikoloz Khatiashvili (5 caps), 18. Luka Japaridze (uncapped), 19. Nodar Cheishvili (31 caps), 20. Giorgi Javakhia (6 caps, 5 points), 21. Gela Aprasidze (34 caps, 24 points), 22. Giorgi Babunashvili (3 caps, 9 points), 23. Ilia Spanderashvili (1 cap).

Photo: Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images

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Dylan Jack