Time for preparations and talking is almost over with the long anticipated first Test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions finally upon us at the Cape Town Stadium in the Mother City on Saturday afternoon.
When announcing his squad this week, British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said selecting the team was his hardest yet because neither he nor his coaches had picked the eventual line-up earlier in the week.
The Lions coach, on his fourth tour and third as head coach, said it took an hour and a half for them to whittle down his choices on Monday.
After intense deliberations, he eventually settled for Ali Price at scrum-half ahead of Conor Murray, Alun Wyn Jones starting at lock in his 10th Lions Test and Stuart Hogg over Liam Williams at full-back.
Other notable inclusions in the starting line-up see Luke Cowan-Dickie at hooker and Duhan van der Merwe over Josh Adams on the wing.
For the Springboks, coach Jcques Nienaber named a strong line-up that will be led by fit again Rugby World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi and boats 21 players in the match-23 who were part of the Word Cup winning squad in 2019.
Nienaber also confirmed that influential pivot Handré Pollard, who will earn his 50th cap for the Boks, will be the vice-captain as they will be looking to start the three match series that will be played in Cape Town with a win.
Springboks VS British and Irish Lions
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has named a strong line-up to be led by Rugby World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi and it includes 21 players in the match-23 who featured in the triumphant campaign in Japan in 2019.
Kolisi, winger Makazole Mapimpi and prop Ox Nché, who were the last group of players to report for duty at the Springbok camp in Cape Town on Monday after they completed their mandatory self-isolation, were included in the starting line-up.
The entire pack of forwards, the halfback pairing of Pollard and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and fullback Willie le Roux started the Test against Georgia which the Springboks won 40-9 over two weeks ago and this means the team will enter the match with valuable game time and continuity in selection.
Changes to the starting XV that ran out against Georgia is on the wings where Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe will be on duty and in the midfield where Damian de Allende will partner with Lukhanyo Am, the same combinations that ran out in the Rugby World Cup Final.
The only two changes among the replacements are at loose forward where Rynhardt Elstadt replaces Jasper Wiese and Lood de Jager takes over from Marvin Orie.
For the British and Irish Lions, Alun Wyn Jones will skipper the Lions having recovered from a dislocated shoulder for his Welsh lock will win his tenth-successive Test cap for the Lions in Cape Town and he will be joined in the second row by Maro Itoje who will earn his fourth successive Lions Test cap.
Elsewhere, Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong will make up the front row, Courtney Lawes packs down on the blind side flank, Tom Curry has been named on the open side and Jack Conan filling the No.8 shirt.
After impressing against the Stormers last weekend, scrum-half Ali Price joins No.10 Dan Biggar in the half back berths, Robbie Henshaw partners Elliot Daly in midfield, Anthony Watson will win his fourth Lions Test cap as he takes his spot on the wing opposite Duhan van der Merwe.
The starting XV includes three Scots for the first time since the 1997 Tour to South Africa when current Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend was named alongside Alan Tait and Tom Smith for the first and second Tests.
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