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SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Five key battles that will decide the test between the Lions and South Africa

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD’S FIVE KEY CLASHES: Tom Curry must shut down Faf de Klerk and full backs Stuart Hogg and Willie Le Roux must be perfect both with and without the ball

  • Drop goal threats of  Dan Biggar and Handre Pollard could prove to be vital
  • Tom Curry’s battle with Faf de Klerk is crucial to stopping South Africa’s rhythm 
  • The upcoming Test series will be Warren Gatland’s third in charge of the Lions 

The British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa finally gets down to business on Saturday with the opening Test match in Cape Town.

Warren Gatland’s men face the reigning world champions, coming off the back of a bruising defeat against South Africa A last week.

Ahead of the opening test, England’s World Cup-winning coach and Sportsmail columnist Sir Clive Woodward has highlighted five crucial areas where the Test will be won and lost.

Sir Clive Woodward has has selected five key battles that he feels will decide Saturday’s test

MARO ITOJE v FRANCO MOSTERT

Lean, athletic, middle-of-the-line aces who account for plenty of high-quality ball but much more than that. 

Supremely mobile, they are both a menace at the breakdown and adept at charging down clearance kicks from opposition nines.

A clash to savour.

Maro Itoje's (pictured) clash with South Africa's Franco Mostert is set to be a 'clash to savour'

Maro Itoje’s (pictured) clash with South Africa’s Franco Mostert is set to be a ‘clash to savour’

DAN BIGGAR V HANDRE POLLARD 

Both must be at their goal-kicking best and eye up drop-goal opportunities because this match could well come down to one score. 

Biggar’s other main challenge will be launching a very potent back division and not overdoing the kicking, while Pollard must concentrate on getting through the game. It’s a long time since he put a significant run of matches together.

ROBBIE HENSHAW V DAMIAN DE ALLENDE 

Big hard men and strong ball-carriers in the midfield, both will be looking to dish out some stick as well as take the big hits. They will set the tone for the level of physicality behind the scrum. Not for the fainthearted. 

Handre Pollard must be at their goal-kicking best and eye up drop-goal opportunities

Handre Pollard must be at their goal-kicking best and eye up drop-goal opportunities

 STUART HOGG V WILLIE LE ROUX 

The two full backs are glorious attacking players — creators and try-scorers — but this is a Lions-Springboks Test and their defences will be cruelly tested as well.

The ‘bombs’ will be heading their way and those awkward grubbers that need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Who will blink first?

TOM CURRY V FAF DE KLERK

Curry knows De Klerk’s every muscle twitch and little tell. He also knows that if you stop Faf you are half way to stopping this Boks side.

England flanker Curry

Sprinboks scrum-half de Klerk

Tom Curry (L) will be aware stopping Faf De Klerk (R) is crucial to disrupting the Springboks

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