Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live coverage of tonight’s British and Irish Lions tour match against South Africa A in Cape Town.
The Lions is one of rugby’s – and sport’s – most prestigious and vibrant concepts, but this tour has so far failed to capture and stir the same excitement of previous editions. The reasons for that are obvious: an injured captain, Covid scares in both camps, no fans in stadiums, a country on the verge of civil war, an irrepressible convulsion that the tour would have been better off taking place elsewhere, and a Test series which was destined to limp to a finish between an undercooked South Africa and a Lions side that is yet to play a convincing fixture. Plus, this week, we entered the nascent stages of some petty bickering between Rassie Erasmus and Warren Gatland, which no one wanted.
And yet, could today – and tonight – been the peripeteia that the tour had been craving? The return of the Lions’ captain, Alun Wyn Jones, has turned heads and when that is placed alongside the star-studded line-up that Erasmus has named for his Springbok A side tonight – featuring Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe, and Pieter-Steph du Toit, among others – the tour suddenly finds itself riding the crest of a wave of optimism. Could tonight be the catalyst for a tour that has so far been as underwhelming as it was hotly-anticipated in the preceding years? Perhaps. One thing is certain, this is the most I have tingled with Lions-tinged excitement since 2017. Tonight feels like a proper Test match; and, no disrespect to the South African provincial sides, the first proper match of this tour.
With just over a week to go until the first Test, Gatland tonight will get the bet view yet on who in the squad is ready to step up for the first Test, and who will be destined for a spot with the midweekers. At least, however, the Lions are alive again.