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Thursday, September 21, 2023

British and Irish Lions vs Stormers preview: Kick off time, TV channel, line-ups and prediction

On Wednesday, the British and Irish Lions were given a harsh reality check.

Coach Warren Gatland has insisted that he deliberately kept his team on a leash before the first Test, and that the 17-13 loss to South Africa A would be beneficial to his players, but there is no denying the obvious.

Nothing but a convincing win against the Stormers will be acceptable as the tension has ratcheted up with verbal barbs exchanged between the two camps.

Date, kick-off time and where to watch
Kick off is at 5pm UK time and will be live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Rugby. Highlights will be available on All4.

The impressive Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will host its second match of the Lions tour.

Much was made about the possible advantage the Springboks may have enjoyed had more games been played at altitude. But with a third wave of Covid-19 ripping through the province of Gauteng where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located, all future games will likely take place within a stone’s throw of the Atlantic Ocean.

This could work in the Lions’ favour. Towards the closing stages of the defeat to what was essentially a Springbok team in all but name, the tourists looked the sharper of the two teams.

Marcus Smith will don the red of the Lions for the first time after his late inclusion in the squad this past weekend. It’s been a momentous fortnight for the 22-year-old who helped drive Harlequins to glory in a pulsating Premiership final and also debuted for England. Now, his talents will be on show with an electric backline behind him.

Stuart Hogg will skipper the side. The Scot has played just one game on the tour and is making a return from an enforced isolation due to a Covid-19 concern. He was the firm favourite to start the first Test but now must prove his match sharpness, particularly as Anthony Watson impressed in mid-week.

Robbie Henshaw has recovered from a hamstring injury and will partner Elliot Daly in midfield. Duhan van der Merwe, already with four tries on the tour, shelled the ball three times in the win over the Sharks last Saturday. Quite clearly a prolific finisher, he is prone to error. Nothing but a perfect performance will see him edge his way into the starting XV for the Boks.

In the forwards, one name stands out. Alun Wyn Jones has completed a comeback to rival Lazarus. A dislocated shoulder against Japan in June all but ended ended his hopes of a fourth stint with the Lions. But the 35-year-old successfully navigated a training session with Wales, hopped on a last minute flight to South Africa and is once again in the mix.

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