Warren Gatland says the British & Irish Lions know exactly what to expect from South Africa after confirming Alun Wyn Jones as his captain for Saturday’s first Test in Cape Town (Match Betting – South Africa 11/10, Lions 5/6, Tie 18/1).
Jones, who also featured for the Lions against the Boks in 2009, has made a spectacular recovery from a dislocated shoulder suffered four weeks ago in the tour opener against Japan.
The 35-year-old lock will make his 10th successive Test appearance for the Lions in a streak reaching back to that 2-1 series defeat 12 years ago and will be partnered in the second row by Maro Itoje.
Gatland has also ended a 20-year wait for a Scottish starter in the Tests, with Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe (7/4 Anytime Tryscorer) selected in the back three, while Ali Price has got the nod over Conor Murray at scrum-half.
Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and number eight Jack Conan have been handed surprise starts, while Robbie Henshaw and Elliot Daly are paired in the centre.
The Kiwi coach, who is overseeing the Lions for the third straight tour, appears to have picked on form rather than reputation, while his selection also hints at a plan to use his team’s mobility to outmanoeuvre their unashamedly physical opponents.
Despite this, the 57-year-old knows his side will have to be up to whatever is thrown at them from the first minute in what looks set to be an enthralling encounter in Cape Town (Series Betting – Lions 8/11, South Africa 11/10, Drawn Series 20/1).
“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to be an arm-wrestle, there’s no doubt about it.
“We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle.
“We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come.”