Match Preview – Sharks vs Lions

We look at some of the talking points ahead of the British and Irish Lions’ second tour match in South Africa, vs the Cell C Sharks on Wednesday in Johannesburg, live on Sky Sports.

Following a pre-departure victory over Japan at Murrayfield, the Lions made their presence felt on South African soil with a thumping 56-14 win against the Sigma Lions in their opening tour match on Saturday.

Durban outfit the Sharks – who recently played in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup and will be part of the United Rugby Championship when it launches next season – are the opponents for the second of five warm-up matches in South Africa ahead of a three-Test series against the Springboks.

Catch the action from Johannesburg on Wednesday live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 5pm.

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Tom Curry a man to watch on his Lions debut

A pectoral injury prevented Curry from playing a part in the thumping wings against Japan and the Sigma Lions, but the 2019 world player of the year nominee is primed for his Lions debut after being restored to full fitness.

Still only 23, the Sale flanker is an explosive carrier, has huge stopping power in defence and is strong over the ball. His work-rate is also a point of difference.

Curry needs to display all those attributes if he is to wear the number seven jersey against the Springboks following Hamish Watson’s blockbusting, man-of-the-match display in the tour opener in South Africa. A seismic duel awaits at openside.

Daly looking for vindication in the middle

Viewed almost exclusively by England as a wing or full-back, Daly has travelled to South Africa as a dedicated outside-centre – though he has not played there for England since 2016.

Despite a year in which he struggled for form in an England shirt, Daly is one of the red rose’s most naturally-gifted players. Operating in his preferred position for the Lions is an exciting prospect and against the Sharks, he must seize the opportunity of his first tour start.

The 28-year-old Saracen offers a unique set of skills compared to the other centres who have travelled – Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Chris Harris and the versatile Owen Farrell.

Athleticism, footwork and speed set Daly apart from his rivals and would allow the Test midfield to take a different shape to power-first or twin playmaker approaches.

The Sharks to watch out for

The Sharks are the best-represented side in the Springboks squad, boasting a nine-strong contingent headlined by captain Siya Kolisi, who joined from the Stormers earlier this year.

However, with all of those players ruled out of Wednesday’s match due to the bubble system in place, Sean Everitt’s men will be severely weakened against the Lions.

Building up to the British & Irish Lions game this Wednesday ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿฆˆ#OurSharksForever

Of the players left behind, fly-half Curwin Bosch was the second highest points scorer in the South African section of the Rainbow Cup, while only the Stormers’ Edwill Van Der Merwe managed more tries in the competition than lock Reniel Hugo and hooker Kerron Van Vuuren.

Bosch will start on Wednesday, with Hugo and Van Vuuren on the bench. Scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, who is in the XV, crossed for two tries in a narrow Currie Cup defeat to Western Province last week.

Duhan Van Der Merwe needs a big one

The Lions are blessed with high-quality back-three options yet two matches into the tour, one is almost certainly already taken after Josh Adams’ scoring feats so far.

Adams has amassed five tries in two starts, underlining his finishing prowess, but coach Warren Gatland may decide he wants different qualities on the other side of the pitch.

Van Der Merwe fulfils this brief perfectly by using his powerful physique and clever footwork to bring tackle-busting firepower to the backline. The South African-born Scot’s brute strength could offer balance alongside the more dynamic Adams and provide physical presence against the mighty Springboks.

However, with each of Adams, Anthony Watson, Liam Williams and Stuart Hogg playing well so far, and Louis Rees-Zammit scoring a try on his Lions debut, places in the Test back-three are becoming extremely tight to call.

Team News

British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Iain Henderson (c), 5 Adam Beard, 6 Josh Navidi, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Stuart Hogg, 23 Chris Harris.

Simmonds in to start for Lions vs Sharks at No 8 ๐Ÿ‰

Sam Simmonds will start at No 8 for the British and Irish Lions ๐Ÿฆ on Wednesday vs the Sharks ๐Ÿฆˆ, while Tom Curry, Adam Beard and Josh Navidi will make debuts ๐Ÿ‘‡

Sharks: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse; 1 Khwezi Mona, 2 Fez Mbatha, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 5 Hyron Andrews, 6 James Venter, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (c).

Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Dylan Richardson, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Anthony Volmink.

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