June International Tours

British and Irish Lions aim for fourth tour win

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The British and Irish Lions have set a goal of remaining unbeaten ahead of the first Test against world champions South Africa on June the 20th.


But before then the team coached by Scot Ian McGeechan have to face the Natal Sharks, Western Province and a composite Southern Kings side.


Next up on the schedule is a date on Wednesday against a Sharks side who were in the running for the Super 14 semi-finals until the last weekend of group action when a home loss to the Bulls cost them a place.


While the Sharks remain a South African rugby powerhouse, the side that will do battle with the Lions has been severely depleted by national call-ups.


Wings Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen, centre Adrian Jacobs, fly-half Ruan Pienaar, utility back Frans Steyn, number eight Ryan Kankowski, prop ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, prop-cum-hooker John Smit and hooker Bismarck du Plessis are absent because of Springbok duty.


However, no less than four Boks will start against the tourists, fullback Stefan Terblanche, lock Johann Muller and props Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens, the only player in the side who is part of the current national squad.


Having got the better of a Royal XV in Rustenburg, the Golden Lions in Johannesburg and the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, the touring team face a stern test from the Sharks and touring manager Gerald Davies has stated his side are motivated to make it four wins from four outings.


“We are now halfway through the provincial matches prior to the first Test and the important factor is that the Lions are unbeaten.


“The next challenge is the Sharks.”


“The selected team will want to ensure that the one hundred percent playing record is maintained with a victory at Absa Stadium, which is also the venue of the first Test.”


While McGeechan says he is some way off knowing his strongest side, it is increasingly looking like fullback Lee Byrne, centres Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and scrum-half Mike Phillips are set to make the first Test starting line-up.


Byrne will start for the third time in four matches on Wednesday, as will Roberts, Shane Williams, captain Paul O’Connell and loose forward David Wallace.


“The next two matches are obviously critical in the development of the Test side. “


“While we have these new starting partnerships (among them the second row where Alun-Wyn Jones joins O’Connell) for the Sharks match we also have a centre pairing in Jamie and Brian, and a backrow of Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace and Tom Croft that have played together in the Golden Lions match,” added McGeechan.


One area where the Lions will want to make a big step up against the Sharks is at the breakdowns.


It was a department where they came off second best against the Cheetahs.

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