As Lions tours go this one will be no doubt one of the most difficult in British & Irish Lions history.
Due to the frightening times we currently live in, events off the field have an impact that cannot be negated.
The South African province of Gauteng has been one of the hardest hit by the latest wave of the coronavirus, despite this the legendary Lions began their tour, which will take place to a eerie backdrop of empty stadiums.
Stewart Hogg captained the team from full back, with Owen Farrell’s selection at centre perhaps an early indication of Warren Gatland’s plans to play either Dan Biggar or Finn Russell at fly half, in the test series against the Springboks.
A team that has had more name changes than a witness protection candidate, were the opposition.
On Saturday they were called the Sigma Lions, only last week they were known as the Emirates Lions, they have also been previously named Golden Lions and perhaps more famously Transvaal.
The last time the Lions played these “other” Lions was on the 2009 tour, where the visitors romped home 74-10.
It took the class of 2021″ just 4 minutes to get on the scoreboard, with a try from the youngest player on tour, 21 year old Welsh wonder kid Louis Rees-Zammit.
Further first half tries from Scotsmen Hamish Watson and Ali Price gave the tourists a 21-7 half team lead.
4 second half tries for Cardiff Blues wing Josh Adams, plus one for replacement scrum half Gareth Davies, ensured a comfortable 56-14 win with Owen Farrell nailing all 8 conversions. It has to be said the local defence left more holes than a demented moth, but the men in red took their chances all the same.
The last Lion to score 4 tries in a match was Shane Williams against Manawatu in 2005, illustrious company indeed.
The touring party now have a short turnaround before facing yet another member of the animal kingdom, the Sharks, or the Cell C Sharks, to give them their full corporate title.
Coach Warren Gatland stated before the tour began that every player would get game time in the opening 3 matches, so there will be wholesale changes made.
On Saturday’s win he said, “The boys were pretty good today. I was a bit unhappy with some of the turnovers when we tried to force things, I have been incredibly impressed with the players and their attitude. We are probably still going to be a bit rusty with making so many changes but we will we see how they go on Wednesday”.
Encouraging news is also emerging from Wales. Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones shoulder injury is not quite as bad as it could have been. The big lock is hopeful of making a recovery in time to rejoin the squad, the next few weeks will be crucial, but how wonderful it would be to see the 35 year old back in a Lions shirt before the tour ends.