South Africa v British & Irish Lions
After so much controversy and uncertainty surrounding the tour after the pandemic hit, the time has finally arrived and the waiting is over. The Lions are in South Africa! The red wall, as the Lion’s supporters are affectionately known, will not be in attendance but it remains a special occasion nonetheless.
South Africa only welcomes the British and Irish Lions once every 12 years so it is a much sought-after experience for anyone on the Springbok team. Both staff and especially the players will relish the opportunity. World Cup winner and legendary South African try-scorer, Bryan Habanna recently summed up how unique it is by stating that there are international centurians that miss out on playing against the Lions because it doesn’t fall for them.
Habbana was a scorer in the most recent test series between the two sides which saw the Springboks win 2-1 in 2009. That tour is remembered for the sheer physicality that awaited the Lions players in each match. Not just the tests but the warm up games were equally as ferocious and we can look forward to more brutality from the South Africans once more this time around.
Both sides have been disrupted by injury and illness ahead of and after the announcements of each squad. Covid-outbreaks have hit the Springbok squad and halted their preparations for the warm up fixtures against Georgia. Three players tested positive during the training week meaning the entire squad went into isolation and were unable to practice for a few days until the situation was cleared up and risk eliminated.
Rassie Erasmus has already had to deal with a big injury to and the potential loss of influential number eight Duane Vermulane and will hope for a clean bill of health coming out of the Georgian matches for the rest of his star-studded squad. The World Champions are already sweating on the fitness of crucial fly-half Handre Pollard with a survivor of the 2009 series, Morne Steyn waiting in the wings to take over at stand-off.
The British and Irish Lions were dealt a double blow during their warm-up fixture against Japan with both tour captain Alun-Wyn Jones and flanker Justin Tipuric sustaining tour-ending shoulder injuries during the first half of the match. Losing the two Ospreys and Wales forwards is a massive blow to Warren Gatland as Jones (3) and Tipuric (2) brought huge experience to the group having been on multiple tours before. Scotland’s Hamish Watson and Zander Fagerson both withdrew from the Japan game through concussion and a back spasm respectively and will be hoping to make their mark once passed fit to play.
Previous Meets and Results
Since the inaugural meeting in 1891, the British & Irish Lions and the South African national side have contested 13 series in total. Currently, The Springboks lead and have won eight to the Lions’ four, with a single drawn series in 1955. Overall, there have been 46 matches played; The Springboks have won 23 times to the tourists’ 17, the remaining six matches ended in draws.
The British and Irish Lions won the first two series between the two sides in 1891 and 1896, including wins in the first six matches, but then did not win another series until their unbeaten 1974 tour. As a result of apartheid sanctions, after South Africa’s victory in the 1980 series, the two teams did not meet again until 1997 with the Lions won the series before South Africa won the most recent match-up in 2009.
South Africa v British & Irish Lions Prediction
You can get odds of (25/1) for a drawn series and given how close the betting is between these two sides that could well be worth a punt. There was last a drawn series between these two sides in 1955 but that was played over a 4-test series with each team winning twice. It can be a bit more difficult to achieve a drawn series in a 3-match affair but it is certainly conceivable that they could win one each and fail to be separated and draw the third test.
You would get a decent return from backing a draw and judging on the quality of the squads it is unlikely that either the Lions (7/2) or the Springboks (6/1) will whitewash the other and win a series 3-0. There has not been a one-sided victory for either side since the ‘invincible Lions of 1974 won 3-0 to avenge the previous two tours that had also ended 3-0 in 1968 and 1962, both to South Africa.
Although the odds are tight and the outcome is certainly hard to predict. The safest money is on either the Lions (2/1) or South Africa (9/4), both with Betfred, to claim the series by a 2-1 winning margin in the 3-test series.