The British & Irish Lions get their much-anticipated South African tour underway on Saturday when they face the Emirates Lions at Ellis Park.
Emirates Lions v British & Irish Lions
3 July 18h00
Emirates Airlines Park
To Win Match
Emirates Lions 8/1
B&I Lions 1/25
Emirates Lions (+21.5) 9/10
B&I Lions (-21.5) 9/10
The Emirates Lions will welcome back a number of frontline players when they take on the might of the British & Irish Lions at Emirates Airlines Park on Saturday.
Cash van Rooyen has the likes of Jordan Hendrikse, Burger Odendaal, Sti Sithole, MJ Pelser, Jannie du Plessis and Jaco Kriel all back for this very special match. If he takes to the pitch, it will be du Plessis’ second time facing the tourists after representing the Sharks in 2009, though it is unlikely that many, if any of van Rooyen’s charges will be around come the next tour.
For many of these franchise players, Saturday’s game will mark the pinnacle of their careers. They’ll want to make a game of it.
Form counts for little in one-off games such as these and the Emirates Lions will be out to give the British & Irish Lions hell on the highveld in their first game in South Africa. It is likely that Warren Gatland’s men are yet to have properly acclimatised to the altitude in Johannesburg having arrived less than a week ago, and the hosts will look to run them ragged and bust the lungs of the Europeans.
The Emirates Lions, like the rest of SA’s franchise sides, have nothing to lose. They’ll be going for broke, holding nothing back for the full 80. It is fortuitous that they have been named as the Lions’ first opponents and have a real shot at knocking them over on the highveld.
Gatland has named a strong XV to kick things off in South Africa with the mercurial Stuart Hogg set to captain the side. There are also 10 English players set to pull on the famous Red Jersey this week.
Verdict: Emirates Lions (+21.5) 9/10
As a result of the altitude on the Highveld, the British & Irish Lions are likely to tire by the final quarter which may give the hosts a look-in. That said, Gatland’s men should probably have too much firepower here and will claim a reasonably narrow win.
Emirates Lions: TBA
15: Stuart Hogg, 14: Louis Rees-Zammit, 13: Chris Harris, 12: Owen Farrell, 11: Josh Adams, 10: Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 1: Wyn Jones, 2: Jamie George, 3: Kyle Sinckler, 4: Maro Itoje, 5: Jonny Hill, 6: Courtney Lawes, 7: Hamish Watson, 8 Taulupe Faletau
Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Make Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Ellion Daly