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A dominant second half display from the Lions saw them ease past the Stormers by a comfortable 49-3 margin. It was imperative that the touring side got back to winning ways having suffered their first defeat when up against a strong South Africa A side, and this was just the sort of display they needed to build confidence heading into this first test.
The omission of Josh Adams has sparked some debate, though in truth this is a very strong lions side with Anthony Watson and Duhan van der Merwe occupying the flanks and against a side that is potentially quite undercooked, there’s every reason to think the visitors can take an early series lead over the World Champions.
Indeed, The Springboks have a new coach in the form of Jacques Nienaber and although he’s now been in charge for over a year and a half, he’s only taken control of one test match which came at the beginning of this month.
That game was a 40-9 win over Georgia, so they’re yet to test themselves against an elite side since the Rugby World Cup final victory over England.
Nienaber has opted to stick with a winning formula with 21 of the 23-man squad having featured at the World Cup two years ago, with a lack of international rugby in recent times not giving him the luxury to be able to tinker with his team before this series.
Lions +1.5 Handicap
The Lions have won their opening test in half of their last six tours, with two of those three coming against New Zealand by a minimum of 15 points and while the other did indeed come against the Springboks themselves, that was a narrow 26-21 defeat back in 2009 and we feel the balance is much more with the Lions now as it was then.
That display against the Stormers will stand them in good stead and we feel the hosts will be slightly too rusty in the first test at least, so with the handicap sitting at just 1.5, we’ll take the visitors to cover it.
Springboks v Lions Teams
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams.