Stephen Ferris previews the Lions’ opening match in South Africa
The British and Irish Lions have landed in South Africa off the back of a convincing win against Japan last Saturday in Murrayfield.
They looked a well-drilled side in the first half, scoring three unanswered tries. However, the second half was a different story, with Japan controlling possession and outscoring the Lions 10-7, which I’m sure Mr Gatland wasn’t that happy about. But a win is a win, and it was vitally important both physically and mentally to hit the ground running and to start building confidence within the squad.
“We’re are all hoping for a safe and successful tour”
The Lions are currently based in Gauteng which is one of nine provinces in South Africa. There has been a huge shadow cast over the Lions’ arrival due to the devastation Covid 19 has had on the local area of Gauteng in particular. Many people believe that the tour should not be going ahead because of how many South Africans are suffering from this horrific virus, but then on the other hand the British and Irish Lions being in town and playing competitive rugby matches live on TV across the world is giving people hope and joy.
The Lions playing against the World Cup champions is bringing smiles back to people’s faces and giving us all something to look forward to. We’re all hoping for a safe and successful tour that will be remembered for all the right reasons.
The B&I Lions play the Emirates Lions on Saturday afternoon at the world-famous Ellis Park. It’s a 17:00 kick-off and you’ll be able to see all the action on Sky Sports 1. This is a match that I played in back in 2009, and I am expecting a very similar result on the scoreboard this time around. In 2009 the game ended with a 60m try by some guy called Stephen Ferris… this made the score 74-10 to the British and Irish Lions, a result that sent a few shock waves through South African rugby. The Lions meant business.
“Defending mauls is a huge issue for the Lions”
The Emirates Lions have been very poor in the Rainbow Cup over the last four months, so I’m not expecting there to be an upset here. Yes, they have a few quality players in Andre Warner, Jordan Hendrikse and the rapid try-scoring machine Rabz Maxwane.
However, the Emirates Lions make far too many mistakes and miss a raft of tackles in all the games they play. Defending mauls is a huge issue for this team and expect the B&I Lions to go after this area of the game. Jamie George, who is starting at hooker for the B&I Lions, could find himself on the end of a few maul trys if things pan out the way I suspect.
“I like the combinations Gatland has gone with”
I think an early marker could be laid down by the B&I Lions in this game. Physicality, energy, hunger, desire, and lots of raw emotion will be on display. Representing the B&I Lions is the pinnacle of any professional rugby players career, and there’s no better way to go out and express yourself than on the biggest stage in rugby. The world will be watching.
Warren Gatland has named a team that he thinks will deliver. I like the combinations he has gone with, especially in the backrow. Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson and Toby Faletau will be a formidable trio who can cause chaos on any given day with their relentless work-rate and game-changing impact tackles. Ali Price and Finn Russell will take on the responsibility of managing the game plan at 9 and 10 respectfully. Two guys who know each other well from Scotland, so I could see this combination being a huge positive for the Lions in this game, but also moving forward in the tour.
Stuart Hogg captains the side with Conor Murray not selected, and the initial tour captain Alun Wyn Jones injured and out of the tour. There’s a bit of pressure on Hogg as he hasn’t been starting for Exeter Chiefs in the last couple of games, so he will certainly be looking for a big individual performance to shake off any of the doubters.
I’m expecting a resounding win for the British and Irish Lions. There is too much quality for the Emirates Lions to handle.