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By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi has warned his team mates not to underestimate physical Georgia when the world champion Springboks play their first test in 20 months next week in Pretoria.
The Boks have not gone into battle since lifting the Rugby World Cup trophy in Japan in November 2019, but are building up to a crunch three-test series against the British and Irish Lions that starts on July 24.
Before then they will meet Georgia on July 2 and 9, and there is a real worry that their home-based players could struggle to make the step up to international rugby again after a stop-start series of domestic competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.
"Before we head into the Lions series, we definitely have to focus on Georgia," Mbonambi told reporters. "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 (adjust) on our side.
"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 vast, and the intensity is 10 times higher than just playing a local team," added Mbonambi.
He says the technical team, including director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber, have been pushing the players to the limit to try and prepare them for the test matches.
"Jacques Nienaber, Rassie 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."
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)