x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Willemse planning to stretch the pack

The Royal XV coach Chaka Willemse expects a strong physical threat from the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's tour opener.

JOHANNESBURG // The Royal XV coach Chaka Willemse expects a strong physical threat from the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's tour opener. Willemse has named a team containing 11 members of the Vodacom Cup-winning Griquas side under the captaincy of the prop Wilhelm Koch. And while the Lions are expected to record a comfortable victory in Rustenburg, Willemse hopes his side can make an impression.

"I know they [the Lions] believe the only way they can win in South Africa is to win the battle up front," he said. "We will be ready for them, but we are not going to be sucked into playing a forwards' game only. "They've got some big guys in the pack, so if we can move them across the field as much as we can, maybe we can tire them out. "The biggest challenge has been trying to prepare for opponents we know nothing about.

"While we know the individuals, we don't know the combinations or how they will play as a team." Early proof, meanwhile, of the Lions' box office status has come with ticket sales nearly sold out for their opening midweek fixture against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg next Wednesday. * PA