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Jul 7, 2021 at 6pm UK at JONSSON KINGS PARK
LionsBritish and Irish Lions
Venter (50')
Adams (2', 56', 77'), van der Merwe (6', 25', 73'), Aki (38'), Rees-Zammit (60')

Preview: Sharks vs. British and Irish Lions - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's British and Irish Lions clash against the Sharks, including predictions, team news and lineups.

With renewed uncertainty surrounding the first Test in less than three weeks' time, the British and Irish Lions will continue their tour of South Africa with a match against the Sharks at Ellis Park on Wednesday.

Warren Gatland's side have won two from two so far, most recently cruising past the Sigma Lions on Saturday.

Match preview

The Lions celebrate Louis-Rees Zammit's try against the Sigma Lions on July 3, 2021© Reuters

As opponents South Africa have seen their preparations suffer yet another setback with training cancelled for a second time in as many weeks due to coronavirus, the Lions' own buildup to the first Test on July 24 is rolling along nicely.

A rare outing on home soil saw them battle past World Cup quarter-finalists Japan in their tour opener, although that success was sullied somewhat by injuries to two players.

Saturday's triumph over their South African namesakes was another step in the right direction, though, as Gatland's men eased to a 56-14 victory and - perhaps even more importantly - came through unscathed.

Josh Adams stole the headlines with four tries to further enhance his Test credentials, while a number of other individual performances will have left the Lions coach with an enviable dilemma ahead of July 24.

The Lions will never expect an easy game in South Africa, though, and Gatland has stressed the need to continue improving heading into a meeting with a Sharks side that should provide a step up in quality.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland before the match on July 3, 2021© Reuters

Wednesday's match is the second of five warm-up games on South African soil before the first Test and history is certainly on the tourists' side in the buildup to the main event.

Excluding Test matches, the Lions have now lost just one of their last 57 tour games in South Africa since their defeat to Transvaal in 1968, winning 55 of those and drawing just one.

Winning can only be part of the battle against the physicality of South African sides, though, and the Sharks will be raring to go in what will be the highlight of many of their players' careers.

Head coach Sean Everitt has admitted that his side will be "punished" if they do not adequately prepare for the contest, which has been brought forward by an hour to avoid clashing with England's Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.

However, the Lions have named an exciting team whereas the Sharks will be without their South Africa contingent, including World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi.

It would be some achievement if they were able to run their illustrious visitors close at Ellis Park, but with Gatland continuing to experiment with different combinations, there could be genuine belief of an upset amongst the hosts.

Team News

British and Irish Lions' Sam Simmonds reacts on July 3, 2021© Reuters

Gatland has named three more Lions debutants in his starting XV for this match, with Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Adam Beard donning the famous jersey for the very first time.

Beard and Navidi only joined the squad the night before they left for South Africa due to injuries to Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric, but they will now get the chance to stake their claim for a Test start.

Navidi and Curry form part of a particularly exciting back row which also includes Sam Simmonds, who will make his first international start for three years after being frozen out by England head coach Eddie Jones.

Curry had come into the tour with a pectoral injury but has now fully recovered to earn his first involvement, having seen Hamish Watson enhance his claim for a back-row start in the first Test with a man-of-the-match performance against Sigma Lions.

Iain Henderson will captain the side for the first time with new tour captain Conor Murray on the bench, and Gatland's selection means that every player in the touring party will get a chance to prove themselves in the first three warm-up games.

As expected it is a much-changed starting XV with 10 players - including seven forwards - making their first starts of the tour.

A mild hamstring issue ruled Robbie Henshaw out of contention for this, meaning that Elliot Daly will have a chance to shine from the start in a relatively unfamiliar outside-centre position.

There is no place for Owen Farrell in the matchday 23, although Gatland has insisted that the England talisman will start one of the upcoming warm-up games at 10.

The Sharks will be without South Africa captain Kolisi as he continues to prepare for the first Test with the Springboks, although the latest outbreak of coronavirus has threatened their next warm-up fixture with Georgia.

Ox Nche is also away with the national team and will play no part, but two-time Springbok Curwin Bosch will start at fly-half alongside 21-year-old scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse.

The Lions must also be wary of the pace of South Africa sevens star Werner Kok on the wing for the Sharks.

British and Irish Lions confirmed starting lineup:
Williams; Watson, Daly, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Davies; Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Fagerson, Henderson, Beard, Navidi, Curry, Simmonds

Sharks confirmed starting lineup:
Libbok; Kok, Ward, Louw, Abrahams; Bosch, Hendrikse; Mona, Mbatha, Mchunu, Van Heerden, Andrews, Venter, Bholi, Buthelezi

SM words green background

We say: British and Irish Lions to win

Gatland's side have hit the ground running on this tour, and the convincing nature of their victory at the weekend - albeit against the weakest opposition on the tour - will only increase their confidence.

The Sharks should provide a tougher test, but shorn of two Springboks - including iconic captain Kolisi - it looks to be a tough ask for them to derail the Lions' preparations.

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Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland during the announcement on June 2019
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