Maro Itoje, Siya Kolisi and Alun Wyn Jones will all feature in the opening Test on Saturday

Both sides have now named their squads for the opening Test in Cape Town on Saturday – and Telegraph Sport columnist Maggie Alphonsi has run the rule over the starting XVs. Who does she rate higher – the world champion Springboks or Warren Gatland’s Lions?

South Africa

Willie Le Roux —7/10

He can be a bit sketchy under the high balls but his strength is that he counter-attacks really well and will act as a second player maker alongside Handre Pollard. His defence recently showed he is good at covering the backfield.

Cheslin Kolbe — 8/10

We all know the threat Kolbe brings; he could side-step anybody in a phone box! He will be one of the players the Lions will have to control and contain. No loose kicks because when he gets close to the try line he can create a lot of damage.

Lukhanyo Am — 8/10

Am is playing some of his best rugby at the moment, and he showed for South Africa A how hard he is to handle. He is also a leader that can step up to the plate.

Damian De Allende — 8/10

We know how he runs hard lines and he is a midfield rock in defence. A player the Lions will have to break down early if they are going to make any inroads. 

Makazole Mapimpi — 7/10

As one of the players who was in isolation due to Covid there is a question mark around his fitness, but on his day Mapimpi is up there as one of the best finishers. He scored a sensational try in the 2019 RWC final. 

Handre Pollard — 7/10 

Another player who may have fitness issues due to Covid but he is a player who is good at creating opportunities. Will be winning his 50th cap and is a threat in all facets of the game as runner, kicker and under the high ball. Expect to see him use the crossfield kick a lot to test the Lions back three. 

Faf De Klerk — 8/10

De Klerk will be a thorn in the Lions’ side. His pinpoint box kicking, agility and unpredictability of play will be an area the Lions will want to make sure they stifle. But is susceptible to giving away penalties and getting the odd yellow card. 

Faf de Klerk will be a key man for South Africa


Ox Nche — 6/10

Another player who will have a question mark around fitness due to Covid. Has just two Test caps and with South Africa having their strongest front row on the bench Nche is a player who wants to make sure he puts in a strong first half performance.

Bongi Mbonambi — 6/10

Another with fitness concerns due to Covid. We probably haven’t seen the best of him yet. Not having had a lot of game time could present challenges for him and the team at the lineout. But he can be a threat at the back of a driving maul, so you can’t count him out. 

Trevor Nyakane — 5/10

There are questions around his ability to be strong in the scrum. He is definitely South Africa’s weakest scrummager. He struggled against Wyn Jones for South Africa A and against Georgia. Could he be dominated in the game?

Eben Etzebeth — 8/10

He brings that physical presence and he carries hard and will require chop tackling early. 

Franco Mostert — 7/10

Mostert’s work rate is the main reason behind him starting over De Jager on the bench. Has a great partnership with Etzebeth and I expect him to relish the challenge against AWJ.

Siya Kolisi (captain) — 7/10

Unfortunately fitness due to Covid has been an issue for Kolisi too but when he is at his best he is a real leader within that squad. 

Pieter-Steph Du Toit — 8/10

The only question around Du Toit is that he went off for a HIA in the South Africa A game – so will he be at his very best in terms of fitness? As the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year we should expect to see something of that form on Saturday. Expect to see him loitering in the outside channels posing a threat out wide. 

Kwagga Smith — 7/10

I thought we would see Jasper Wiese at No8 but what Smith brings is pace and power. He might not have the stature and weight but he is able to break tackles, can beat defenders and make ground off the base of a scrum.

TOTAL  — 107/150
British and Irish Lions

Stuart Hogg — 8/10

Hogg has had a solid Tour, he is strong under the high ball and is confident at the back, with Liam Williams on the bench the Scot will want to make sure he starts off well.

Anthony Watson — 8/10

He showed in the last game how he is a strong, hard runner. The only question mark over Watson is over his ankle having picked up a knock in the last game. The right call to start on the right wing. 

Elliot Daly — 8/10

With no Owen Farrell in the starting line up, Daly will be the second playmaker. He has a huge left boot and he has featured in every game so far on Tour – the only area of concern may be has he got enough left in the tank for this first Test? 

Robbie Henshaw —  7/10

We haven’t seen much of him following his hamstring injury. This is the second time Henshaw and Daly have started together on Tour – have they had enough game time together to challenge De Allende and Am? 

Duhan van der Merwe —  7/10

A big wing that has been solid on tour so far and has carried well. The only issue will be around his defence and management of the high ball as he hasn’t really been tested other than in the Japan game. 

Dan Biggar —  7/10

A guy who is used to the big stage and is playing with confidence. Has been managing an ankle sprain so will he be at his best for the first Test?

Dan Biggar will start at No 10 for the Lions

Credit: AFP

Ali Price —  8/10

Price deserves to start at scrum-half, he is on form and brings tempo. His box-kicking will be vital in terms of getting behind the aggressive South African defence. 

Wyn Jones — 8/10

For me the Welshman has been one of the standout loose heads. He scored tries in the warm-up games and despite a slight issue around a shoulder injury I feel he will step up to the mark. 

Luke Cowan-Dickie —  8/10

Cowan-Dickie has earned his spot as the starting hooker and will bring physical presence as he acts as an extra back row. He made 3 turnovers against the Stormers and he will be hoping for more of the same against SA.

Tadgh Furlong —  8/10

The Irishman is everywhere and is like an extra back. He of course will be key at scrum time. 

Maro Itoje — 8/10

He will be a nuisance but will need to be at his best against Etzebeth. I am really looking forward to that second-row battle.

Alun Wyn Jones (captain) — 7/10

I am pleased “the Machine” has made it back but I probably wouldn’t have started him. There will be pressure on him to perform but I know he will be the leader the players look to.

Courtney Lawes — 7/10

I probably would have started Tadhg Beirne at six and Lawes on the bench but he will bring physicality in defence and tire the South Africans out in the first half.

Tom Curry — 8/10

Curry is on fire at the moment. I expect him to slow down the opposition breakdown but he will also look for steals around the ruck and carry hard into the heart of the SA defence. 

Jack Conan — 8/10

A deserved Test start at No 8 and will relish the opportunity. Conan is a player who had a great Six Nations and has been good on tour so far. I hope to see a big game from him against the pacey Kwagga Smith. 

TOTAL —  115/150

Do you agree with Maggie’s ratings – and who do you think will win the first Test? Let us know in the comments section below.