British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones will start on the bench against the Stormers on Saturday following his remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder.

Jones suffered the injury in a pre-tour match against Japan and was expected to miss the series against South Africa.

However, coach Warren Gatland confirmed at the start of the week that the most-capped player of all time was to be back in contention for the Lions when their three-Test series against the Springboks starts on July 24.

That will be two days shy of a month since sustaining the initial injury, though he could be in action even before that, highlighting the incredible nature of his recovery.

The Lions will face the Stormers in Cape Town, and while Stuart Hogg is to wear the armband after completing a period of isolation, Jones will be available from the bench.

Gatland said: "It's an important game as it's the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test series.

"For the matchday 23 it's their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.

"It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He's not had much luck on Lions tours to date, so it'll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain's armband."

Robbie Henshaw comes into the midfield after shaking off a hamstring injury and Josh Adams returns after the birth of his daughter saw him ruled out of Wednesday's narrow defeat to South Africa A.

Marcus Smith, who recently won his first England cap, will debut at fly-half, and Gatland is particularly excited to see the Harlequins talent in action.

"I'm delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey," Gatland said. "I've been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he's been like a sponge for information.

"Obviously it's a tight turnaround from Wednesday's game but we’re in pretty good shape. The South Africa 'A' game was a physical encounter – we always knew it would be – but we've come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again."

Maro Itoje is looking forward to the competition Alun Wyn Jones will provide when he returns to the British and Irish Lions squad.

Jones, who was initially named as the tour captain, suffered a dislocated shoulder in a pre-tour match against Japan and was expected to miss the series against South Africa.

However, the most-capped player of all time will be back in contention for the Lions when their three-Test series against the Springboks starts on July 24.

England lock Itoje played and impressed on Wednesday, as the Lions failed to battle back against a South Africa A team littered with 2019 Rugby World Cup winners, suffering their first defeat in eight games in the process.

Though he will be competing with Jones for a place in Warren Gatland's team, Itoje is relishing the prospect of playing alongside the Wales star.

"He's a man of immeasurable experience, he is the most capped player in the history of rugby. He is going to add his experience, add his clout and add his edge," Itoje told Sky Sports.

"To be honest, I want the competition, I want the best team available and I want to compete. Those kind of decisions are not up to me, they're up to the man who gets paid the big bucks, Warren, so I'll leave that to him."

 

The Lions went down 17-13 in Cape Town, with their points tally their fewest in a match since a 12-3 win against the Crusaders in the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

Gatland's team came into the game having scored 50 points or more in three successive games – the first time they had managed such a run in their history. In fact, only on three previous tours have they scored a half-century of points in more than three games (1959, 1974, 1997).

Despite Wednesday's loss, Gatland is still confident his team can go on to defeat the world champions, who have played just one Test since beating England back in 2019.

"They came pretty hard at us in the first half. I was really pleased with the way we got back into the game and how strong we looked in the second half," the former Wales coach told Sky Sports.

"We stayed in the battle. That was the pleasing thing. The guys in the changing room are saying there is no reason why we can't win the series."

The British and Irish Lions suffered their first defeat of their tour of South Africa, going down 17-13 to a Springboks 'A' side in Cape Town.

Like in Saturday's win over the Sharks, Warren Gatland's team were defensively vulnerable in the first half on Wednesday and were duly punished by a South Africa A team littered with 2019 Rugby World Cup winners.

Indeed, two of those world champions scored South Africa A's tries, with Sbu Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am going over.

Wyn Jones' score early in the second half brought the Lions back into it, but they were unable to stop a seven-match unbeaten streak – their longest such run since a trail of 10 wins across the 1989 and 1993 tours – coming to an end.

South Africa A started as they meant to go on in the first half – Nkosi seeing what seemed a certain try denied by Anthony Watson, though Morne Steyn, who converted the decisive points in the Lions' 2009 series against the Springboks, then nosed the home team ahead with a penalty.

Nkosi got his try in the 12th minute, however, with the wing bursting down the field to dive over in the corner after Eben Etzebeth charged down Owen Farrell's kick.

Steyn added the extras and, after Farrell had hit a three-pointer for the tourists, the 37-year-old was on point with the boot again in the 33rd minute, this time converting Am's try.

Yellow cards for Faf de Klerk and Marco van Staden reduced South Africa A to 13 men before the interval, and the Lions made their numerical advantage count when Wyn Jones barged over four minutes after the restart.

It was Jones' last act, with the Wales international taken off as a precaution – Gatland having already lost Liam Williams to a head injury in the first half.

Farrell hit another penalty to further reduce the deficit, though Louis Rees-Zammit saw a try disallowed by TMO and then Steyn's perfect record was dashed when he punted a long-range effort wide.

Steyn also squandered a drop-goal attempt late on, yet the Lions failed to make him pay as they were dealt a first setback of their 2021 tour.

STEYN BACK WITH A BANG AS LIONS SUFFER RARE CAPE TOWN DEFEAT

Though his kicking was off in the second half, Steyn was clinical in the opening 40 minutes. His Springboks debut came against the Lions back in 2009 as he played in all three Tests, scoring 19 points and not missing a single place kick (seven of seven) during the series.

This was the first time the Lions have played at Cape Town Stadium, which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although they will be back for the first Test. It was only their second defeat in the city from their past 11 appearances there – that previous loss having come back in 1980.

CAPTAIN'S RETURN A BOOST

The Lions laboured against the Sharks on Saturday and, against a Test-standard side this time around, their vulnerabilities were exposed again in the first half. Even though they missed only five tackles, their fewest in a match since also missing five against the Brumbies in 2013 – another game in which they lost – they were too often caught out by the pace of their opposition.

Gatland's team improved after the break, but the remarkable return of Alun Wyn Jones cannot come soon enough. International rugby's most-capped player will be on his way to South Africa on Thursday, with Ireland's Ronan Kelleher also flying out.

Jones will be in contention for the first Test on July 24, while Josh Adams – who has impressed on the tour so far – will likely return for the Stormers game on Saturday, after missing Wednesday's outing to watch the birth of his first child on a video call.

The British and Irish Lions have been handed a huge boost with the news that captain Alun Wyn Jones will join their tour of South Africa – less than three weeks after he suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Jones, 35, sustained the injury during the Lions' warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26, but he will fly into Cape Town on Thursday.

The veteran lock came through a training session with the Wales squad at their Vale of Glamorgan base this week before successfully undergoing a medical assessment.

"We are delighted to welcome Alun Wyn back," said head coach Warren Gatland. "It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows Alun Wyn that since injuring his shoulder against Japan, he's done everything he can to get himself back.

"It's remarkable really when you consider it's just 18 days since he left us in Edinburgh.

"He's been training with the Wales squad at the Vale since last week and yesterday he had a proper hit out. Following assessment from the medical staff this morning we're satisfied he's fit to return.

"He's obviously raring to go and from what I've seen on video and the feedback we’ve received, he's certainly not been holding himself back in training. He was really getting stuck in yesterday.

"It’s a massive boost for the Lions to welcome a player of Alun Wyn's stature back."

Following high-scoring wins in their first three matches against franchise sides, the Lions face what is expected to be the toughest examination of their tour so far when they take on South Africa A in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Ireland earned a famous ODI victory over South Africa in Dublin, with captain Andy Balbirnie scoring a century.

After the first ODI was rained off without a result, Ireland won by 43 runs on Tuesday and will now seek to seal a surprise series success in the final match on Friday.

Captain Andy Balbirnie made 102 as a fast finish from Ireland saw them put up a total of 290-5 from their 50 overs after being put in to bowl by Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma.

That total always looked competitive on a green wicket although it was not until Janneman Malan (84) and Rassie van der Dussen (49) were removed in consecutive overs that South Africa began to toil.

Ireland's Paul Stirling (27) and Andy McBrine (30) were dismissed after making starts, with economical Proteas bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (1-42) limiting the early progress.

Shamsi had Harry Tector dropped first ball in a difficult chance for wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne, who nonetheless soon rued that moment.

Four sixes helped Tector to 79 runs from 68 balls in a spectacular knock, lasting until the final over when George Dockrell (45 from 23) also fell, with Ireland smashing 65 from the last five overs.

Ireland got off to a good bowling start when Aiden Markram (5) and Bavuma (10) fell early.

Malan and Van der Dussen got to work slowly rebuilding the innings, but the end of their 108-run partnership for the third wicket proved decisive.

Opener Malan was looking to up the tempo when he holed out to deep midwicket in the 33rd over.

Van der Dussen, who impressed in the recent series against Pakistan, fell one short of a fifty seven balls later, out lbw to McBrine (2-34).

That left South Africa on 160-4 and they subsequently collapsed to 247 all out.
 

History for Ireland

Bavuma was immediately facing questions for resting Quinton de Kock and Lungi Ngidi after Ireland made history with a first win over South Africa in international cricket.

Ireland came into this triple-header having lost consecutive 50-over series to Afghanistan and Netherlands, though they have now won five of their last six completed ODIs on home soil, including four straight wins.

South Africa had won all five of the previous completed ODIs between the nations and they have never met in any other format.

Brilliant Balbirnie

Balbirnie scored 65 in the abandoned first ODI and produced an even better knock here after being promoted to opener in place of William Porterfield.

He racked up 12 boundaries which included two sixes in his 117-ball innings, reaching his fifty in just 51 balls to set the tone before holding the fort to set a platform for Tector to make hay late on.

Balbirnie had a scare when dropped by Kagiso Rabada on 74, but ultimately it was a seventh ODI century for him, having also reached three figures in this format against England last year.

Alun Wyn Jones could yet feature for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, having made a "remarkable" recovery from a dislocated shoulder.

The 35-year-old, who was set to captain Warren Gatland's touring party in South Africa, suffered the injury against Japan at the end of June but could still fly out on Tuesday, subject to medical confirmation.

The Lions face South Africa A, a side packed with 11 World Cup winners, on Wednesday and Gatland revealed in Monday's news conference that Jones could well return.

"A few weeks ago we didn't think there was an option," the Lions head coach said. "We're waiting for medical reports from him to see what happens with that.

"He's been back fully training with Wales – he's training this week with them. I think he's doing a double session with them tomorrow and we'll see what the outcome of that is."

Conor Murray, who is yet to start a game on tour for the Lions, came in to act as Jones' replacement in the captaincy role.

However, Gatland appreciates the invaluable role the Welshman could play if fit.

"He has made a remarkable recovery in terms of that injury, which wasn't as bad as they first thought," he added.

"It would be a boost to the squad having someone of his experience and calibre to come back into the squad."

Experience is exactly what Jones brings, as he represents the only member of the current touring squad to have faced the Springboks with the Lions previously, while also being the most-capped international of all time.

Having triumphed comfortably in the three pre-test matches against South African club sides the Lions and the Sharks, Gatland's team face South Africa A in what is being billed as an unofficial fourth test.

A subsequent fixture against DHL Stormers will follow before the three showpiece clashes with the Springboks get underway on the 24th July, by which time Gatland will be hoping Jones is fit.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland is pleased to see so many players pushing for Test places after naming a much-changed team to face South Africa A.

The Lions have won all four warm-up matches so far ahead of the start of their three-match series with South Africa later this month, including back-to-back wins over the Sharks.

Gatland has made 12 alterations following the 71-31 victory over the Sharks on Saturday, with Anthony Watson, Chris Harris and Dan Biggar the only ones to be retained.

Watson moves from right wing to full-back and Harris will shift to outside centre to play alongside Bundee Aki, while Maro Itoje partners Iain Henderson in the second row after recovering from illness.

Wednesday's clash in Cape Town will be a proud occasion for tour captain Conor Murray, who will lead out the Lions for the first time.

Gatland has a number of big calls to make in terms of team selection for the opening game with world champions South Africa on July 24, with just two warm-up matches to go.

"We're pleased to have arrived in Cape Town as we near the halfway stage of the series," he said.

"Wednesday's game against South Africa A will be our toughest encounter since we arrived here and we're looking forward to it. 

"We expect them to be physical in the contact area and look to test us at scrum time.

"I think we've benefitted from playing at altitude in the first three games. While the boys have felt it in their lungs, they'll be all the better for it now we're at sea level.

"As we move towards the business end of the tour, it's pleasing to see so many players putting in some stand-out performances. 

"As coaches we want the players to make Test selection as hard as possible and that's what we're seeing."


Lions team to face South Africa A:

Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Bundee Aki, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Iain Henderson, Josh Navidi, Tom Curry, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Adam Beard, Tadhg Beirne, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Elliot Daly.

South Africa's preparations for their upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions have been dealt a blow after captain Siya Kolisi and five other players tested positive for coronavirus.

Dan Du Preez, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni and Makazole Mapimpi have been forced into self-isolation alongside their skipper and three members of team management.

An SA Rugby statement read: "With the entire squad and management team confined to their rooms since Monday, the possibility of transmission through close contact has been mitigated."

Over 20 members of the Springboks' squad have now returned positive tests in the build-up to the three-match series, which is scheduled to begin on July 24.

That includes head coach Jacques Nienaber, who is unable to work with his players as he continues to self-isolate.

Instead, South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is taking charge of training sessions for the remaining members of the squad.

Nienaber said: "We are delighted to be able to return to the field and resume our preparations for the Lions series.

"It has been a challenging week with the Test against Georgia on Friday night cancelled and the entire squad self-isolating for a few days as a preventative measure, so the players cannot wait to get back on the park.

"The Test against Georgia was important for us with an eye on preparing to face the Lions, but these are extraordinary times and we have to adapt as a team. I have to commend the players and management for that.

"We are a tight-knit coaching team and everyone takes responsibility in their respective roles. It is also great to have Rassie steering the ship while I am away.

"He has been part of the system for several years now and he guided most of these players to the World Cup title in 2019, so the team is in great hands."

The British and Irish Lions will face the Sharks for the second time this week after the scheduled clash with the Bulls was postponed.

Warren Gatland's men were due to take on the Bulls in their third match of the trip on Saturday, but that match was called off due to coronavirus cases in the Pretoria-based franchise's squad.

Instead, the tourists will do battle with the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld, just three days after hammering them 54-7.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said: "The choice of the Sharks was dictated by the fact that they have been in a bubble, have returned negative tests throughout and were prepared to take on the fixture.

"No other team in the country could meet those conditions right now – without going into a five-day lockdown. It is not an ideal situation, but COVID-19 has made sure that we do not live in an ideal world."

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: "We’re very grateful to the Sharks for agreeing to play us again this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.

"We have further COVID-19 testing scheduled for today [Thursday] and tomorrow. The results of those tests will determine whether we will be able fulfil this fixture, but, as it stands, we are optimistic.

"We remain committed to the tour in South Africa and determined to rise to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Lions head coach Gatland insisted he is not concerned about the viability of the tour despite a coronavirus outbreak hitting his squad just hours before their midweek drubbing of the Sharks.

South Africa were due to do battle with Georgia but COVID-19 cases in both camps put paid to that fixture just a fortnight before the first Test against the Lions.

The Springboks playing and management group returned 12 positive tests this week, with Georgia returning four. 

The British and Irish Lions' clash with the Sharks is in doubt after a member of their management team tested positive for coronavirus, while South Africa's game with Georgia is off.

Warren Gatland's men are due to face the Sharks in the second match of their tour of South Africa on Wednesday.

However, four members of the touring party, including two players, are now isolating having been deemed to be close contacts of the individual who had the positive test result.

Kick-off has been pushed back to 20:00 local time (19:00 BST) pending the results of PCR tests for the rest of the touring party. The game will go ahead should those tests return negative results.

"We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the tour, which included regular testing and rigorous COVID-19 counter measure planning and protocols," said Ben Calveley, managing director for the Lions.

"Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.

"Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The Medical Advisory Group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight's game.

"The five individuals affected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the best possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests."

The Springboks' second Test with Georgia was cancelled due to COVID outbreaks in both camps.

South Africa's playing and management group returned 12 positive tests this week, with Georgia returning four. 

Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said: "In the context of the loss of life and economic damage that COVID and this third wave are wreaking, the cancellation of a rugby match is pretty trivial.

"But it is still a major disappointment for the many stakeholders who have invested so much time, energy and resources into making these matches happen.

"I especially feel for the fans and players, and for our visitors from Georgia who travelled here at relatively short notice to take on the series, which has now been cut short. We've not been able to interact with them because of the bio-secure environments, but I'd like to thank them publicly for their support.

"We continue to plan for the Springboks' re-emergence from isolation and the completion of the Test series but in the short term we wish a speedy recovery for those who have been infected."

The Lions' clash with the Bulls on Saturday is already off and, while they are scheduled to face South Africa 'A' next Wednesday, the remainder of the tour now looks to be in question.

South Africa have recorded a further 10 COVID-19 cases, including head coach Jacques Nienaber, while the British and Irish Lions' match with the Bulls has been postponed.

A Lions statement on Tuesday confirmed they were exploring a rescheduling of the match or finding different opponents after five positive tests meant it was "impossible" for the Bulls to field a team.

The Lions' meeting with the Sharks in Johannesburg next Wednesday is set to go ahead as scheduled.

However, the Springboks' match with Georgia next week is also in doubt after Nienaber, five management figures and four players - Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard and Frans Malherbe - all returned positive tests.

There were also four cases of the virus within the Georgia team. Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said the news underlined the problems posed by the Delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India but has since spread to numerous countries.

"These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the Delta variant," he said.

"The Springboks' second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the MAG to consider the data and we will make the final decision tomorrow [Wednesday].

"The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that."

On Monday, South Africa suspended training and placed their squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

There had been three further confirmed cases of the virus within the squad on June 27, although they were still able to go ahead with their first warm-up match against Georgia, which ended in a 40-9 victory for the Boks.

It was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

The first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

South Africa suspended training on Monday and again placed their entire squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

It is the second time the Springboks have been forced to take preventative measures ahead of their upcoming series with the British and Irish Lions.

Vincent Koch, Herschel Jantjies and Sbu Nkosi tested positive for COVID-19 on June 27, though the world champions resumed training and their first warm-up match – a 40-9 victory over Georgia – went ahead as planned last Friday.

However, this Friday's game against the same opponents is now in jeopardy following another positive case, which also raises further questions about the three-match Test series with the Lions.

A statement from SA Rugby on Monday read: "Springbok training has been suspended for Monday following a positive test for COVID-19 in the squad.

"The players have been placed in preventative isolation prior to further PCR testing and a review of the testing data by the Medical Advisory Group (MAG).

"Lood de Jager returned a positive outcome in scheduled testing and, because of his close contact with a number of squad members, the entire group has gone into isolation.

"An update will be issued following the review by the MAG and the further testing."

South Africa's victory over Georgia was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

Their first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram paved the way for South Africa to claim their first Twenty20 series win since March 2019 as they held off West Indies to secure a 25-run victory.

Having decided to bat first in Grenada, Temba Bavuma's side went on to seal a decisive triumph to round off a 3-2 series success.

De Kock's 60 and Markram's 70 set the tone as the tourists reached 168-4 from 20 overs.

It proved the difference, with Evin Lewis' 52 not enough to inspire the Windies, who also lost the Test series against the Proteas 2-0.

South Africa could hardly have got off to a poorer start, however, with captain Bavuma dismissed on the third delivery of the day.

Yet thanks to the efforts of De Kock – who struck his third straight half-century – and Markram, the Proteas were on 128 by the time they next lost a wicket.

After helping to muster the highest partnership of the series for either side, De Kock picked out Andre Russell off Fidel Edwards' bowling, before Markram, who has now scored 50 or more in four of his last nine T20s, succumbed two overs later.

David Miller added 18 off 16 deliveries to ensure South Africa finished with a flourish.

Lewis went on the attack to get Windies off to a strong start, but by the time he was caught by Markram, the hosts were 75-3, having lost Lendl Simmons and Chris Gayle.

Shimron Hetmyer's 33 included two sixes, but the loss of Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell in swift succession ultimately left the Windies with too much to do, with Nicholas Pooran's dismissal the final blow to their hopes.

DE KOCK LEADS THE WAY

Though Markram was awarded with player of the match, De Kock has enjoyed a brilliant series.

His innings also included four boundaries along with a pair of sixes, while De Kock's total of 225 runs are also the most by a batter in a bilateral series. 

Lungi Ngidi (3-32), was the pick of the bunch from South Africa's bowling attack.

BOUCHER GETS A MONKEY OFF HIS BACK

This was also a huge win for South Africa coach Mark Boucher. The Proteas have hardly had much in the way of consistent success under his coaching unit, albeit the coronavirus pandemic has certainly played a part in that.

Indeed, South Africa were on a five-series losing streak in T20s, but they may just have started to turn things around.

South Africa marked their return to Test action with a commanding 40-9 victory over Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday.

The Springboks had not competed since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and initially took time to get going in Pretoria.

But the hosts slowly loosened up on and crossed over six times to make a positive start to preparations for their upcoming three-match Test series with the British and Irish Lions

Aphelele Fassi was one of two players making their debut for the Boks, along with Rosko Specman, and he marked the occasion with the first try inside the opening five minutes from his very first touch.

Georgia had already got on the board by that point through Tedo Abzhandadze's penalty, and the fly-half kicked over twice more before South Africa next registered.

Following a sustained spell of pressure, Bongi Mbonambi went over from the maul to give the home team a platform to build on and they did not look back.

The world champions made the most of their man advantage after Beka Saghinadze was sin-binned as Cobus Reinach gathered a Fassi kick and raced through before half-time.

South Africa had more of a cutting edge to them in the second half, with Kwagga Smith picking up from the base to cross over and Herschel Jantjies doing likewise five minutes later thanks to some smart play from Handre Pollard.

Malcolm Marx was next to dot down following a powerful rolling maul as Jacques Nienaber's side moved through the gears.

The Springboks passed up a couple of promising situations in the remaining 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done as they claimed victory in the first of their two Tests with Georgia ahead of facing the Lions on July 24.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.