Lions v B&I Lions - teams and predictions
SECONDS OUT, ROUND ONE: The much-anticipated British and Irish Lions tour finally gets off the ground at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Some players had their first taste in Edinburgh last week.
However, that was just an amuse-bouche.
Now the main course starts, the real deal – the first game of an eight-match tour!
And it all starts on the Highveld – where the crucial second and third Tests will be played.
The Johannesburg-based Lions may not be the most fearsome opponent they can face, but it will be a good indication of what is to be expected from the tourists.
The B&I Lions coach, Warren Gatland, said they had a “reasonably good” look at their opponents for Saturday.
“For us, the first game on tour is always difficult,” Gatland told a virtual media briefing.
With the Johannesburg-based Lions the least affected of the South African franchises in terms of Springbok call-ups, he expects Saturday’s opponents to be a settled unit.
“For a lot of these [local] players it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play against the B&I Lions, so they will be highly motivated.
“We know there won’t be any crowds, but that won’t take away from their desire to be the first team to beat the B&I Lions on tour.”
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Ivan van Rooyen, coach of the host team, spoke of the ‘excitement’ in the camp, being the first team to get a crack at the tourists.
“We are keen to test ourselves against international players,” he told a virtual media briefing, adding that it is the first time in well over a year that they are not playing a local team.
He also spoke about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players.
“We are going to have a full go.
“In a big game like this, if you are too conservative and you don’t have a brave mindset, you will be in for a big hiding anyway.
“It is an opportunity to show what we represent and what we stand for.
Gatland spoke of the need to not just give every player a chance in the first three matches on tour – making 14 changes to the starting XV for this match – they also need to build momentum by winning.
“There is also the need to test some combinations,” the coach said.
With only five games before the first Test, on July 24, the time for experimentation is ‘very limited’.
“The exciting part is the amount of competition we have for places in the Test team,” Gatland told a virtual media briefing.
“It is going to come around pretty quickly,” he said of the matches against the Lions, Sharks and Bulls in the next week.
The touring team’s captain for the opening match Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg, spoke about “putting a marker down” for the rest of the tour.
And with the ball flying much further on the Highveld than what they are used to, the tourists know that playing in the right areas of the field will be key.
“It is a huge, exciting time for us all,” he said, adding: “The build-up has been very good.
“We have spoken a lot about putting a marker down early doors and starting this tour in the best way possible.”
Players to watch
For the Lions: The coach, Ivan van Rooyen, spoke this week about calm heads and good decision-making from the players in the spine. That puts the likes of EW Viljoen, Burger Odendaal, Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit, Francke Horn (the captain), Reinhard Nothnagel and Pieter Botha firmly in the spotlight.
For the British and Irish Lions: There is the attacking prowess of fullback and captain Stuart Hogg, as well as the finesse and skills of mercurial flyhalf Finn Russell. The brute force will come from a pack that features Taulupe Faletau, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje and Kyle Sinckler.
Head to head
The British and Irish Lions have played against teams from Johannesburg 18 times on previous tours – the local team winning just five times, with one draw.
2009: B&I Lions won 74-10
1997: B&I Lions won 20-14
1980: B&I Lions won 32-12
1974: B&I Lions won 23-15
1968: Transvaal won 14-6
1962: B&I Lions won 24-3
1962: B&I Lions won 24-3
1938: Transvaal won 16-9
1938: B&I Lions won 17-9
1924: Transvaal and B&I Lions drew 12-all
1924: Witwatersrand won 10-6
1903: Transvaal won 12-3
1903: Transvaal won 14-4
1896: B&I Lions won 16-3
1896: B&I Lions won 16-5
1891: B&I Lions won 15-0
1891: B&I Lions won 9-0
@rugby365com: B&I Lions to win by 30 points or more
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Francke Horn (captain), 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Ruhan Straeuli, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Dan Kriel.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price,
8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Elliot Daly.
Date: Saturday, July 3
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 BST, 16.00 GMT)
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
* Picture credit: @lionsofficial