The British and Irish Lions begin their South Africa touring program against the Sigma Lions on Saturday July 3.
This is the first game for Warren Gatland’s side on South African soil, and follows their 28-10 warm-up victory over Japan in Edinburgh.
The Gatland Lions will play five games before the Tri-Test series begins against the Springboks later in July – you can see the full Lions Test schedule here.
Here’s everything you need to know before the game:
When do the British and Irish Lions play against the Sigma Lions? What time is the kick-off?
The British and Irish Lions take on the Sigma Lions (known until recently as the Emirates Lions) on Saturday July 3 at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. The kick-off is at 5 p.m. (England Time).
What TV channel is Sigma Lions v British and Irish Lions showing on? What about the live broadcast?
Sky Sports owns the television rights to the Lions Tour and this game will air on both Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Action. Coverage will begin at 4 p.m.
You can see which Sky Sports packages and offers are available here.
It can also be streamed live by Sky TV customers who have the Sports package on the Sky Go app, as well as NOW TV sports subscription customers.
If you don’t have Sky Sports, there are a few options for watching the action on TV.
You will also be able to follow live updates via WalesOnline from Saturday afternoon.
What are the team’s news?
Lions head coach Gatland made 14 changes to the squad that beat Japan, with Welsh winger Josh Adams the only man to hold onto his spot.
Stuart Hogg, who was unavailable for the warm-up due to his participation in Exeter’s Premiership loss to the Harlequins, will be the team captain.
There are four Welsh in the starting lineup, with Louis Rees-Zammit lined up on the opposite wing to Adams for his Lions debut, with Wyn Jones making his first start and three-time tourist Taulupe Faletau at number eight.
Finn Russell and Ali Price form a pair of all-Scottish half-backs, with fellow international Chris Harris set for his first Lions outing aside from England’s Owen Farrell, who was picked at 12.
There are five England players in the squad, with 2017 tourists Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes joined by lock Jonny Hill, who will make his Lions debut with Scottish flanker Hamish Watson.
There are no Irish players in the starting lineup, but lock Iain Henderson and center Bundee Aki are among the substitutes. Luke Cowan-Dickie, Zander Fagerson, Sam Simmonds and Gareth Davies could make their first Lions appearances off the bench.
The Sigma Lions have yet to name their squad, but have announced a 26-man squad that will train in their âbubbleâ before the game.
It includes four South African internationals: the 70-cap mainstay Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Dreyer, Jaco Kriel and Jamba Ulengo.
British and Irish Lions team: 15. Stuart Hogg (captain); 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Owen Farrell, 11. Josh Adams; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Substitutes: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18 years old. Zander Fagerson, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Sam Simmonds, 21. Gareth Davies, 22. Bundee Aki, 23 years old. Elliot Daly.
Emirates Lions Squad – Attackers: PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie du Plessis, Franke Horn, Jaco Kriel, Nathan McBeth, Reinhard Nothnagel, MJ Pelser, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Visagie.
Back: Jordan Hendrikse, Dan Kriel, Rabx Maxwane, Burger Odendaal, Manuel Rass, Dillon Smit, Jamba Ulengo, Morne van den Berg, EW Viljoen, Fred Zeilinga.
Will fans be at Sigma Lions vs. British and Irish Lions in Johannesburg?
The rapidly growing number of coronavirus cases in South Africa has made it very unlikely that spectators will attend stadiums this summer.
What did the coaches say?
Lions head coach Warren Gatland : âIt’s good to have arrived in Johannesburg and to launch the Tour.
âWe had a nice win last week in Edinburgh, but we still have a lot to do on Saturday.
âI have been encouraged by the way the boys have been training this week. I feel the level has moved up to Jersey and we are starting to understand some of our tactics better.
âThere are new combinations of players to look at this Saturday – which is good information for us as we approach the test series.
“My congratulations to everyone playing their first game as a Lion, as well as to Hoggy – who I’m sure will lead by example.”
Who are the Sigma / Emirates Lions and how good are they?
The Sigma Lions should be ideal opening opponents for their British namesake after a disappointing Rainbow Cup campaign that saw them finish bottom of the South African conference, with their only victory in a 34-33 thriller against the Bulls .
They also struggled in Super Rugby Unlocked, the competition played by South African franchises last year when the coronavirus pandemic struck, winning just one in six matches to finish fifth out of seven teams.
We are a long way from the moment when the Lions reached three consecutive Super Rugby finals, losing each time, between 2016 and 2018. They even dominated the standings in 2017.
The Johannesburg-based team have had to endure a number of high-profile starts in recent years, with World Cup winners Faf de Klerk, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert, and they finished ninth in their final Super season. Rugby in 2019.