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Match Reports - Tuesday 9 June 2009 - 11:56

Natal Sharks v British & Irish Lions

ABSA Stadium – Durban

Date:10 June 2009 – Kick Off 7.10pm local time (6.10pm BST)

UK Television: Sky Sports 2 & HD 2 (5.30pm)

Weather: Sunny, High of 24 degrees

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes, Jaco Peyper

Television Match Official:Shaun Veldsman

Assessor:Denis Immelman

Timekeeper: Paul Ackermann

Sharks

1. Deon Carstens

2. Skipper Badenhorst

3. Jannie du Plessis

4. Steven Sykes

5. Johann Muller (Captain)

6. Jacques Botes

7. Jean Deysel

8. Keegan Daniel

9. Rory Kockott

10. Monty Dumond

11. Luzuko Vulindlu

12. Riaan Swanepoel

13. Andries Strauss

14. Chris Jordaan

15. Stefan Terblanche

Replacements

16. Craig Burden

17. Patric Cilliers

18. Albert van den Berg

19. Michael Rhodes

20. Charl McLeod

21. Guy Cronje

22. Lwazi Mvovo

British & Irish Lions

15. Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales)

14. Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)

13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland)

12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales)

11. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland)

10. Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland)

9. Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales)

8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)

7. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)

6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)

5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) captain

4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)

3. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales)

2. Lee Mears (Bath/England)

1. Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales)

Replacements:

16. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)

17. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)

18. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)

19. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)

20. Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland)

21. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)

22. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)

Match Preview

Well, this is more like it! With the Lions having fielded a weakened side at the weekend against the Cheetahs, the latest Lions side named by Ian McGeechan to face the Natal Sharks in Durban looks much more like the side that will resemble the test team.

With the game against the Sharks being earmarked as one of the most difficult warm up games on the tour, it is important that the Lions do not lose momentum and put in a decent performance to deflect the criticism received over the weekend following the fortunate victory over the Cheetahs.

McGeechan has gone once again for his first choice centre pairing of O’Driscoll and Roberts in midfield and is starting probably his first choice lock pairing in captain O’Connell and Alun Wyn-Jones.

Outside of those partnerships, we see a few new combinations being tested with a new half back partnership in Phillips and O’Gara, and a new front row trio consisting of the two Welsh lads Jones and Jenkins plus England’s Mears.

The area of concern on Saturday in the back row has been addressed by playing the same trio who played so successfully against the Golden Lions a week ago and they all get a chance to once again show what they can do.

There seems to be a number of test candidates and form players making the 15 for this game and it is with good reason, given the strength of the opposition. The Natal Sharks finished sixth in the Super 14 and remain South Africa’s second strongest opposition after the Bulls.

The saving grace for the Lions is that none of their Springbok contingent likely to be part of the test squad, including the current Springbok captain John Smit amongst many other stellar names, are being considered for this game.

Even so, the Sharks boast an impressive array of talent, with former and current Boks who are not being considered for the test squad Deon Carstens, Johann Muller and Stefan Terblanche to name just a few.

It will be a tough test for the Lions who will be targeting the next two fixtures as the final opportunities for those players looking to make a statement before the test side is decided upon in a week’s time.

Lions-Tour.com Prediction

Well, the Lions scraped through with a win at the weekend when they probably should have lost and the pressure will be on to secure a win against the toughest side in the warm up games. We think that this will be just as close as the game at the weekend and we may even see the Sharks nick it. However, we’re going to go for a very narrow win for the Lions given the strength of the Lions side being put out.

Natal Sharks 29 British & Irish Lions 31

Betting – Lions Toughest Test Yet – Free £10 Bet

The first test is fast approaching and the punters are starting to get an idea of the way the Lions team will shape up. Paddy Power has a host of series betting and match betting on the next warm up game against The Sharks. Also there’s a free £10 bet waiting for all new accounts after placing their first bet of £10

The test team is starting to take shape. Ian McGeechan will not be playing his full test team before the first test instead opting to playing combinations which he hopes will gel inDurban on the 20st June. Wednesday’s side to take on The Sharks looks the strongest of all combinations so far.

Lee Byrne will look to confirm his test spot along with Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips. Ronan O’Gara will look to put serious pressure on Stephen Jones as the first choice No. 10. His first appearance in the tour opening was a satisfactory start for him but he will need another top class performance. The forwards have a powerful look about them and certainly look the most dynamic combination the tour management have put together.

The Sharks lead the Super 14 for 8 weeks but fell away badly and didn’t make the play offs. However they will be missing upwards of ten players due to injury or Springbok call ups. They have put together a strong pack of forwards lead by Johann Muller.

The back line has a very inexperienced look about it and it maybe this area that the Lions may exploit. Rory Kockett at No. 9 must be disappointed at not making the Springbok squad and he is one to watch. Expect him to clash at some stage with Mike Phillips.

Prediction: The Lions to play and expansive game and Sharks will look to keep it tight. Lions to win the match but Sharks to make it uncomfortable for them.

Match Odds

10/11 +17 The Sharks

20/1 Handicap Draw

10/11 -17 The Lions

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First Tryscorer

8/1 S. Williams

10/1 Fitzgerald

12/1 Roberts

12/1 Byrne

12/1 O’Driscol

14/1 Flutey

5/4 Under 5.5 tries

4/7 Over 5.5 tries

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