It’s almost time for one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the world of sports, a British and Irish Lions Rugby Union tour.
The British and Irish Lions only tour once every 4 years, and this year the franchise is visiting South Africa.
There are three Test matches scheduled to be played. Originally, it was supposed to be one match in Cape Town (1st Test), followed by the 2nd and 3rd Tests in Johannesburg.
The 2nd and 3rd Tests have now been moved to Cape Town due to keeping the players in bio-bubbles, with all three Test matches now to be played at the same venue.
This move suits the Lions down to the ground, as they now know they don’t have to play two Test matches at altitude in Johannesburg.
Playing at altitude is something that northern hemisphere rugby teams have struggled with for years, and is probably why the hosts originally planned to play two of the three Test matches there.
- 1st Test
- South Africa vs British and Irish Lions
- 24th July
- 12noon EST
- Cape Town Stadium, Fritz Sonnenberg Rd, Green Point, Cape Town, 8051, South Africa
Against a backdrop of Covid-19 cases and recent violent disorder on the streets of South Africa, it is a miracle this match is taking place at all.
1st Test Betting
South Africa and British & Irish Lions head into the match and series neck and neck in the betting.
If you look at the top sportsbooks in general, more have the British & Irish Lions as favorites, but not by much. The majority seem to have it as a 50/50 call.
To win the 1st Test, top sportsbooks have South Africa at -110. The Lions are the same price as their hosts, with the draw at +2200.
In matches this tight, it can be a good idea to use Sportsbook bonuses to bet on your picks.
|South Africa vs British & Irish Lions - 1st Test|
|South Africa To Win||+110||-110|
|British & Irish Lions To Win||+100||-110|
Let’s take a look at how the two sides shape up, starting with the Springboks.
The Springboks are the current world champions, and the last time they played in the Rugby Championship in 2019, they also won that.
Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, South Africa didn’t take part in the 2020 Rugby Championship. So it became a tri-nations event comprising Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand.
In 2019 the Springboks won a shortened version of the Rugby Championship. Instead of the usual home and away fixtures, the four competing sides only played each other once. The reason for this was the impending 2019 Rugby Union World Cup.
Included in the Springboks’ three matches were a 35-17 home win over Australia, a 16-16 draw away in New Zealand and a 46-13 win away in Argentina.
Later that year, South Africa won the world cup, defeating England in the final. The Springboks had the slightly easier run to the final, with England accounting for both Australia and New Zealand.
Since that win over England in the 2019 World Cup final, the Springboks went 21 months without a fixture. Their first and only match since becoming world champions was a 40-9 win over Georgia on 2nd July 2021.
This means the Lions have more recent form than their international opponents. Something unheard of from a team that only gets together every four years.
British & Irish Lions
The Lions were rocked pre-tour with the news that their captain and talisman Alun Wyn Jones was to miss the tour with a dislocated shoulder. Remarkably, Wyn Jones has somehow recovered in the four weeks since the dislocation against Japan.
𝗛𝗘'𝗦 𝗕𝗔𝗖𝗞 🦁
Alun Wyn Jones has made an incredible recovery and been given the all-clear to return to the #LionsRugby Tour 🙌🙌🙌
Read more ⬇️#CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 14, 2021
Whether the shoulder has recovered enough is another matter. But Wyn Jones did play 26 minutes in the warm-up match against the Stormers a few days ago and came through unscathed.
It’s fair to say he will be provided with a further examination of his shoulder when he captains the Lions on Saturday. The Springboks will target his suspect shoulder, and how the shoulder stands up could be a deciding factor in the direction the series goes in.
South Africa vs Lions Betting Picks
Under normal circumstances, I believe that South Africa would go into this match as heavy favorites. But given that they have only one fixture under their belts since the 2019 World Cup final, punters can’t be sure how they will perform.
A similar thing can be said of the Lions. They look to have the stronger players on paper, but the problem is that they don’t play together very often, meaning how they gel as a team is always hard to predict.
Combinations are hard to build in a month. Meaning this always gives the nation hosting the Lions a distinct advantage.
The match will likely be decided upfront, and this is where the Springboks are at their most deadly. This is the part of their game that England couldn’t cope with in the world cup final, and if the Lions have any chance, coach Warren Gatland needs to combat that.
I have a feeling that the Lions won’t cope with the power and brutality of the Springbok forwards, and this is why I feel the hosts will edge this fixture when it gets underway this Saturday.
Don’t forget to check out our Rugby Betting page for more picks and information about betting on the sport. There are also two more Test matches coming up in this series on the following two Saturdays.