The first Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions takes place on Saturday after weeks of intense preparations and practice matches.
Warren Gatland’s side have enjoyed a healthy war of words over the past couple of weeks regarding waterboys, biased match officials and overflowing egos, but now it’s time to do the talking on the pitch.
With both sides coming into the series opener in similar form, Sportsmail’s NIK SIMON has rated the players’ form going into the first Test…
The British and Irish Lions take on South Africa in the first Test of their tour on Saturday
Sportsmail has ranked both sets of players’ forms going into the series opener this weekend
Willie le Roux (S Africa) – 6
AGE: 31 CAPS: 62
Slips in as second playmaker to get ball to Kolbe. Can struggle defensively.
Stuart Hogg (Lions) – 6
AGE: 29 CAPS: 9
Surprise pick. Lacks grit of Liam Williams but dancing feet could cause problems.
Cheslin Kolbe – 9
AGE: 27 CAPS: 14
On course to become the world player of the year. Small but savage.
The Lions need to be wary of Cheslin Kobe – who could be named world player of the year
Anthony Watson – 7
AGE: 27 CAPS: 9
Offers the highball skills of a second full back to help nullify aerial onslaught.
Lukhanyo Am – 7
AGE: 27 CAPS: 15
Once spent time with Saracens as part of a scheme for disadvantaged children.
Elliot Daly – 7
AGE: 28 CAPS: 13
Rediscovered his mojo. Silky touches help transfer the ball to the wingers.
Lions star Elliot Daly has rediscovered his mojo in a central role this summer
Damian de Allende – 6
AGE: 29 CAPS: 47
Battering ram topped the carrying count at the World Cup.
Robbie Henshaw – 6
AGE: 28 CAPS: 6
Short on game time but world-class defensive play in midfield.
Makazole Mapimpi – 6
AGE: 30 CAPS: 14
Springbok success story came from extreme poverty. Has raw speed.
Duhan van der Merwe – 7
AGE: 26 CAPS: 4
A beast in attack. Faces biggest defensive test of his life against his home nation.
Duhan van der Merwe (right) faces the biggest test of his life against his home nation
Handre Pollard – 6
AGE: 26 CAPS: 49
Short on match fitness following a serious knee injury and Covid 19.
Dan Biggar – 8
AGE: 31 CAPS: 7
Has developed an attacking edge to complement his warrior-like defence.
Faf de Klerk – 8
AGE: 29 CAPS: 30
Pocket rocket loves taking on biggest men on pitch. Relentless box-kicker.
Faf de Klerk caused controversy in the Lions’ warm-up with South Africa A but is relentless
Ali Price – 7
AGE: 28 CAPS: 3
Stock is rising. Picked ahead of Conor Murray because of tempo and energy.
Ox Nche – 6
AGE: 26 CAPS: 2
At 5ft 8in, Nche uses his low frame to get underneath opposition props.
Wyn Jones 7
AGE: 29 CAPS: 4
Developed a farm strength seeing to his sheep stocks in Wales.
Bongi Mbonambi – 7
AGE: 30 CAPS: 37
Prolific from the back of a driving maul with six tries in 11 starts.
South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi comes into the first Lions Test with six tries in 11 starts
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
AGE: 28 CAPS: 4
Picked ahead of two potential captains because of abrasive physicality.
Trevor Nyakane – 7
AGE: 32 CAPS: 43
Lost battle to Jones last week. Likely to sub off for 125kg Frans Malherbe.
Tadhg Furlong – 8
AGE: 28 CAPS: 10
Anchor-like scrummaging and graceful touches in attack. Key player.
Tadhg Furlong is set to be a key player for the Lions in Saturday’s South Africa showdown
Eben Etzebeth – 8
AGE: 29 CAPS: 86
The enforcer. All swinging elbows, bulging eyeballs and giant biceps.
Maro Itoje – 8
AGE: 26 CAPS: 9
Arch-disrupter will be hustling De Klerk, on guard to shut down his box kicks.
Maro Itoje (left) will be tasked with closing down Faf de Klerk’s (right) expert kicking
Franco Mostert – 7
AGE: 30 CAPS: 40
Low error count. Rarely grabs headlines but at heart of lineout operation.
Alun Wyn Jones (c) – 6
AGE: 35 CAPS: 22
No questioning his leadership but doubts over fitness after shoulder injury.
Siya Kolisi (c) – 6
AGE: 30 CAPS: 51
Workhorse in pack but local critics feel selection is reputation over form.
Courtney Lawes – 7
AGE: 32 CAPS: 9
The hitman. Combative power will help counter the Bok runners.
Courtney Lawes will be looking to make it double digits Lions caps during this series
Pieter-Steph du Toit – 6
AGE: 28 CAPS: 56
Statistician’s favourite. Player of the year tops tackle count and ball carrying.
Tom Curry – 8
AGE: 23 CAPS: 3
A ball of muscle. Will throw his body into the cogs of the Springbok machine.
Kwagga Smith – 8
AGE: 27 CAPS: 7
Won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in sevens. Nippy and dynamic.
The nippy and dynamic Kwagga Smith will be a key player for South Africa at No 8
Jack Conan – 7
AGE: 28 CAPS: 4
Runs smart lines, rather than a big biff approach, to help cut open defence.
Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood De Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.
Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams.
South Africa – 103/150
Lions – 106/150