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Preview: Lions back three look for more opportunities against Sharks

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Preview: Lions back three look for more opportunities against Sharks

Duhan van der Merwe Sharks

The British & Irish Lions will get a second opportunity to take on the Cell C Sharks on Saturday as the race for spots in the back three heat up.

With Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe each scoring hat-tricks against the Sharks on Wednesday, while Louis Rees-Zammit scored a fine try of his own, the competition is ferocious for spots out wide.

Van der Merwe, the top try-scorer in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, will be hoping for more of the same against the same opponents, while Liam Williams and Anthony Watson will be eager to join the party.

And in such a short tour, every opportunity counts when it comes to impressing Warren Gatland and the rest of the coaching staff.

TEAM NEWS

The Lions have made 13 changes from the side that saw off the Sharks 54-7 on Wednesday with only Van der Merwe and Elliot Daly keeping their spots in the side.

Jamie George will captain the team, while Maro Itoje, Tadhg Beirne and Hamish Watson all get another opportunity in the pack.

In the backs, Gareth Davies makes his first Lions start alongside Dan Biggar, the half-back pairing that had been due to start on Wednesday prior to the Covid complications.

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ONES TO WATCH

It is hard to look past the back three, such has been the success of the Lions’ quick men so far on this tour. Adams has eight tries in three games, while Van der Merwe joined him in scoring a hat-trick on Wednesday.

With that in mind, the prolific Scotland winger will be keen to impress once again, while Liam Williams will hope to catch the eye four years after starting all three Tests against New Zealand.

He was joined in the team that took on the All Blacks by Anthony Watson, and the England winger will know that this is a great chance to add to his own Lions legacy.

Up front, the pack will look to get the upper hand on the Sharks in the set-piece as they prepare for the challenge of the Springboks. And while the 6-2 bench split is largely down to availability of backs, it could also be an interesting option for Warren Gatland to consider against South Africa’s ‘Bomb Squad’ that proved so successful at the last World Cup.

WHAT THEY SAID

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: “It’s obviously been a slightly turbulent week, but we remain determined to keep rolling with the punches.

“In many ways, the challenges we’ve faced this week have strengthened our resolve to do everything we can to overcome the challenges created by Covid.

“Saturday is another opportunity to see how the boys go and for us as coaches to try out a few more combinations ahead of the Test series.

“I have long been an admirer of Jamie’s leadership skills, so I am delighted to name him skipper.

“We want to pass on thanks to the Sharks boys for fronting up and going again on Saturday. The spirit of rugby and a great chance for them to have another shot at us.”

TEAMS

British & Irish Lions: 15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833, 14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816, 13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822, 12. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland) #844, 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841, 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821, 9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales) #850, 1. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840, 2. Jamie George – captain (Saracens, England) #819, 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818, 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825, 5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England) #845, 6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838, 7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847, 8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839

Replacements: 16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829, 17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842, 18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814, 19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826, 20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) #849, 21. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853, 22. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790, 23. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835

Cell C Sharks: 15. Anthony Volmink, 14. Marnus Potgieter, 13. Werner Kok, 12. Murray Koster, 11. Thaakir Abrahams, 10. Lionel Cronje, 9. Jaden Hendrikse; 1. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 2. Kerron van Vuuren, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Le Roux Roets, 5. Reniel Hugo, 6. Dylan Richardson, 7. Mpilo Gumede, 8. Phepsi Buthelezi (captain)

Replacements: 16. Dan Jooste, 17. MJ Majola, 18. Khutha Mchunu, 19. Thembelani Boli, 20. Jeandre Labuschagne, 21. Cameron Wright, 22. Boeta Chamberlain, 23. Jeremy Ward, 24. Lourens Adriaanse, 25. Rynhardt Jonker, 26. Curwin Bosch