By News Team
Last Updated: 2nd July 2021
Our four-year wait is finally over as we build up to the British and Irish Lions’ Test matches against South Africa later this month.
But first things first there’s a few warm-up games to get out the way and here we take a look at their first friendly against the Emirates Lions on Saturday.
Lions looking to emulate 1997 tour of South Africa
One of the most iconic rugby teams in the world, the British and Irish lions get their tour of South Africa underway this Saturday when they face up against the Emirates Lions in a friendly game in Johannesburg. It’s their first warm-up game on tour as they prepare for three Tests against world champions South Africa, where they will be looking to try and emulate their historic series victory over the Springboks in 1997. This Lions squad has incredible talent that has performed admirably in both domestic and international formats over the last few years, and as a result, there is a mixture of experience and debutants taking the field this Saturday.
The original captain of the tour was Alun Wyn Jones, but after suffering a shoulder injury at Murrayfield against Japan last week, the responsibility has fallen to Conor Murray of Ireland, though there is talk of Wyn Jones making a miraculous return. Furthermore, there is no less than seven debutants on this tour, but this combined with the likes of leading points-getter Owen Farrell, offers reasons for real excitement and anticipation across the next few weeks.
Saturday’s opponents the Emirates Lions are the successors of previous teams known as Transvaal, Gauteng Lions and the Cats. It’s of little surprise to see the British and Irish Lions are the heavy favourites here to win the opener at odds of 1/16. Their hosts, meanwhile, are underdogs at 8/1 with the draw priced at 33/1.
Emirates Lions to put up a strong defence?
Continuing the inevitable theme of using known combinations to build confidence and cohesion, there are five Scotland players in the starting line-up for the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, including Ali Price and Finn Russell as the half-backs, and six England players too, plus another four on the bench. Owen Farrell slots in again at inside centre, as he did as a replacement against the Japanese, and while Dan Biggar performed with great reliability at fly-half in that Murrayfield game, a combination of Russell and Farrell will be fascinating to watch.
The Emirates Lions were the South African team with the weakest showing in the Pro14’s end of season Rainbow Cup competition, finishing bottom of the South African table with only one win from six matches. Vincent Tshituka is a rising star in the Emirates Lions back row and will be seeking to use this match as a springboard to Springbok recognition. Vincent is capable of playing openside or blindside, and strong at carrying and offloading. The Lions’ fly-half, Jordan Henrikse, recently usurped the older Fred Zeilinga for the starting 10 jersey with his assured kicking and more territory-focused style of play.
Even with the potential rising stars performing well for the Emirates Lions, the British and Irish Lions should go into this with confidence and looking to continue their form from last week at Murrayfield. They are 10/11 for the -25 handicap win, while a 16-20 margin points victory is priced at 5/1.