The two teams will collide at Cape Town Stadium for the first of three Tests in as many weeks, with the northern hemisphere’s finest taking on the reigning world champions in their own territory.
Warren Gatland ’s side have enjoyed an almost unblemished run of results leading up to the first Test, with their sole defeat coming against a South Africa ‘A’ team in Cape Town 10 days ago.
The touring outfit are pleased to have captain Alun Wyn Jones back fit only a few weeks after dislocating his shoulder in their opening tour fixture against Japan.
Jones himself described it as “a very, very special thing” to be fit and available for his side on Saturday, with pressure upon both teams to start with a win in the curtain-raiser.
Second-rower Jones—by far the most experienced Lion with 148 Wales caps under his belt—will play a crucial role in one of the fixture’s key battles if his side are to claim an early series lead.
Gatland was one of Sir Ian McGeechan’s assistants when the Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, during which defeats in the first two Tests rendered their third effectively meaningless.
Now in the head coach role and undefeated in previous tours to Australia and New Zealand, Gatland will hope it’s a case of third time’s the charm as he looks to overcome the world champions.
Nienaber’s XV also includes 11 players who started that 2019 Rugby World Cup final win over England, each hoping to underline those credentials with a strong display back on home soil.
The winner of the opening Test more often than not tends to build on that momentum as far as previous Lions tours are concerned, with pressure reaching fever pitch ahead of Saturday’s opener.
What are the teams?
Lions: Stuart Hogg; Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong; Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (capt); Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.
Reps: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Handre Pollard, Faf De Klerk; Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Siya Kolisi (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kwagga Smith.
Reps: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse
How to watch South Africa vs Lions first Test?
Viewers will be able to watch build-up to the match via Sky Sports action from 3pm, with kick-off scheduled to take place at 5pm.
As well as their television coverage, Sky will also stream Saturday’s Test via the Sky Go app.
What are the odds?
South Africa – 11/10
Draw – 22/1
British and Irish Lions – Evens
Outright series winner
South Africa – 6/4
Draw – 25/1
British and Irish Lions – 11/13