Emerging South Africa opened their defence of the IRB Nations Cup with a hard-fought 11-3 win over a determined Georgia in Bucharest, Romania earlier this evening.
The champions were made to work hard for their victory in baking hot and dry conditions and a surprisingly hard field. The teams enjoyed two water breaks due to the hot conditions.
Earlier Italy A opened the tournament with a stylish 38-15 win over Russia at the Arcul de Triumf.
The stubborn Georgian defence never allowed the South Africans to get into any sort of stride and they tackled Emerging SA back with determination, which resulted in many unforced errors for the team coached by 1995 World Cup winning hero, Chester Williams.
Georgia, for all their efforts, never really threatened to score and could only register a single penalty.
The teams were level 3-3 at the interval after an industrious performance from both sides, with Isma-eel Dollie (fly half) and Ortar Barkalala (fullback) each converting a penalty.
Dollie added a second penalty minutes after the break to put his team 6-3 ahead. The defending champions then finally broke through in the 49 minute thanks to a brilliant break by scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, who ripped the ball from his opponent to put rightwing Howard Noble away for the only try of the match.
Williams admitted afterwards that his team has much work to do. We only had a few days to prepare but I think that we have the talent to play much better. Georgia made life difficult for us at the breakdown and with some fierce tackling, but we let ourselves down somewhat through several handling errors.
We now have a few sessions to prepare before our next match and I am confident that we will see an improved performance against Italy A on Sunday, said Williams.
Emerging SA: Penalties: Isma-eel Dollie (2); Try: Howard Noble
Georgia: Penalty: Ortar Barkalala.
Match Day 2 Sunday 15 June
Georgia vs. Uruguay (15h00, SA time)
Italy A vs. Emerging SA (17h00)
Russia vs. Romania (21h00)