Rusty Springboks still have tools to tame the Lions
In the lead up to the first Test the Lions had been all but written off, but having seen the starting line ups, all is not lost and odds of 4/11 about South Africa could be worth taking on.
The Lions are at odds of 2/1 to take the first Test which looks about right based on their mediocre build up matches but some question marks over the Springbok team selection could have opened the door for a closer game than first anticipated.
Here are the two line-ups:
South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Lions: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Not too many surprises for the Lions, David Wallace gets the nod ahead of Martyn Williams and Ugo Monye, after some excellent displays starts ahead of Luke Fitzgerald and Shane Williams.
After a hose of lack lustre displays against inferior opposition, the Lions remain unbeaten but only just, having had some very close calls.
Many have been predicting the 3-0 white wash in favour of South Africa now at odds of 11/10 but the Springbok line up looks vulnerable on the basis they have a lot of players returning from injury and the Lions will be the battle hardened, match fit team coming in to the game.
They certainly now may be able to make a mockery of the handicap giving them a 7 point head start at odds of 10/11 with South Africa also 10/11 giving up the 7 points.
The Lions back line looks superb and they have been playing consistently well for the most part, Byrne, Bowe and Roberts have all had superb seasons, Monye has been a revelation so far this tour and Brian O'Driscoll is playing near to his best.
Monye and Bowe look a fair price at 12/1 to score the first try, Roberts and O'Driscoll both 14/1 and Byrne 16/1.
This is enough to worry any back line, even one containing the lightening quick Bryan Habana who will undoubtedly attract support for first try scorer at odds of 8/1.
With Fourie du Preez dictating things at scrum half and Francois Steyn in the form of his life, South Africa certainly have a back line fraught with dangers.
Where the Lions have been let down is the amount of ball that they have turned over amongst the forwards and they are coming up against one of the best packs in the world.
Any mistakes will be severely punished by the physical Springbok forwards and this is the main area of concern.
The Lions' main strength has been stealing line out ball and indeed their own line out but South Africa have one of the best line outs in the world and this advantage they've had over the weaker sides may well be nullified.
This could bring in the betting option of a South African forward to score after a power packed surge to the line, so a small wager on someone like Pierre Spies at 5/2 or even John Smit at a big looking 9/1 to score anytime.
This is likely to be close, a winning margins of 1-5 and 6-10 to the home side are 5/1 and 9/2 respectively or the same winning margins in favour of the Lions is 6/1 and 8/1 respectively.
More appealing may be the dozen winning margins market where South Africa look a steal at odds of 8/5 to win by 1-12 points.
William Hill are offering a range of alternative handicaps, the most interesting of which could be South Africa -12 at odds of 6/4 with the Lions 1/2 receiving 12 points.
This should be a close game but the feeling is South Africa will have too much up front for the Lions and ultimately over power them.
This looks like it will be low scoring and a narrow winning margin in favour of the Springboks looks the call.
A wager on Habana to score anytime at odds of 11/8 looks a decent bet, while you wouldn't bet against Monye continuing his good form with a try at a healthy looking 9/4.
South Africa to win by 1-12 points - 8/5
Pierre Spies to score anytime - 5/2
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