South Africa v Lions betting tips: Gatland’s men favourites
Preview and odds for Saturday’s first Test match
The British and Irish Lions play the first of three Test matches against world champions South Africa and we have examined the odds to highlight some South Africa v Lions betting tips.
Warren Gatland’s Lions, who have had six warm-up matches to prepare, will be captained by Alun Wyn Jones for the first Test at Cape Town Stadium.
South Africa’s 23-man matchday squad selected by coach Jacques Nienaber includes 21 players who featured in the country’s triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.
Saturday’s match at the Cape Town Stadium is on Sky Sports and kicks off at 5pm BST.
South Africa v British and Irish Lions odds
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi has been passed fit to lead his country, who are Evens to win the first Test.
The flanker was one of 14 Springboks to test positive for Covid-19, forcing him to self-isolate for 10 days.
With wing Makazole Mapimpi and prop Ox Nche also selected to start having undergone medical screening due to being in similar positions, the Springboks are in great shape.
Nienaber sticks with the same forward pack that began against Georgia on July 2, with wings Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, scrum-half Faf De Klerk and centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
South Africa have only played one Test since lifting the Web Ellis Cup back in November 2019 and that game against Georgia simply served to underline their ability as they romped to a 49-10 win.
Their set-piece is a thing of beauty and they have formidable scrum unit that likes to physically dominate their opposition.
The Springboks’ World Cup win over England was largely based on this powerful unit and despite losing No 8 Duane Vermeulen to injury, they have a world-class back row which may have the edge over the Lions.
The British and Irish Lions made short work of the Sigma Lions, the Sharks (twice) and the Stormers who, due to Covid restrictions and Currie Cup commitments, have not put up much of a challenge.
Their only loss was to a Test-strength South Africa ‘A’ side and they had plenty of chances to win it.
Gatland’s side look well equipped at the lineout, with Maro Itoje incredibly strong.
While the South Africa World Cup win was based on defence, pressuring the skills-set of the opposition, the Lions are well equipped and may hold an attacking edge, possessing more variety.
South Africa’s structured attack is based on physicality and the Lions will know they are in for a battle.
Springboks fear van der Merwe
South Africa will be wary of the powerful running threat posed by Duhan van der Merwe and they may not be too thrilled to see that Jones has recovered from a dislocated shoulder and starts.
Scottish out-half Finn Russell is the only player unavailable as he battles with an Achilles problem but the Lions remain confident he will play a role in the two other Tests, which will both be played in Cape Town on successive Saturdays.
The South Africa v Lions betting tips put the Lions as marginal favourites despite losing 17-13 to South Africa ‘A’, where a slow start cost them dear.
They came on strong in the second half and given the rigours of Test rugby, it is easy to assume the Springboks, who have had little match practice, may fade in the second period on Saturday.
Just once since 1900 has a Lions side won a series having lost the opening rubber – back in 1989 in Australia.
The Springboks have won 23 of the 46 Tests played against the Lions, with six drawn.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication