By Conor O'Shea

There were a few hands played yesterday as we build towards the first test. From an on field point of view the Southern Kings gave the Lions the sort of game I have been expecting to see all tour but that we haven't got so far.

True, we have seen some close games against the Cheetahs and Western Province with the Lions pulling through but we had yet to see a game with the physicality bordering on the illegal and yesterday we got that.

The Southern Kings scrum may have been in trouble all day but their front row made up for that in the loose, making big hits and ball carrying with incredible intensity.

In the three quarter line, Jaco Van der Westhuyzen, Frikkie Welsh, De Wet Barry and Wylie Human ran around like hit men trying to prove a point. Some of it was on the edge but to watch it was great stuff and it reminded you of the folk tales from games and tours gone by. This was old school South African rugby and an old school midweek game. Great stuff.

Credit must go to Alan Solomons and his coaching team for pulling their side together but the Lions should also get plenty of credit for escaping with the win.

True midweek team for Lions

From a Lions point of view it truly was a midweek team although due to injuries, some players may be seen again starting in the test side, most notably Ugo Moyne who should get the nod on the wing. Ronan O'Gara's placed ball kicking may yet ask some questions of the coaching team, although I expect the combination of Phillips and Jones to get the nod.

The Lions yet again struggled at the breakdown and it must be concerning them, although I have said before that with David Wallace/Martyn Willaims, Brian O'Driscoll and Gethin Jenkins they have players who make a difference at that breakdown area in their Test side.

It was really nice to see Keith Earls enjoy the freedom at the back and make some good breaks. This tour won't see Earls in the test side but the value to him and to Irish rugby in the future will be incalculable for the experience he is getting both and on and off the pitch.

When you think of the age profile of Kearney, Fitzgerald, Earls and Bowe it really is mouth watering.

Anyway, as the likely Lions test starters kicked back in Durban and the midweek side toiled away, the South Africans showed their hand - and what a hand it is.

Springboks have picked a powerful side

Granted, Schalk Burger is out injured, but Heinrich Brussow is some replacement and placed alongside Pierre Spies and Juan Smith it is an incredible back row. Given the run around that Brussow gave the Lions at the breakdown for the Cheetahs it may just strengthen their hand.

The Springbok side just oozes quality but it is the back five of their scrum when you add in Matfield and Botha that really does ask questions.

The big question mark against this side is their lack of real match practice. They have, we are told, been playing against each other and against the emerging Boks but nothing takes the place of the real deal and the Lions will target players like Jean De Villiers and Frans Steyn on the basis of their lack of games, they will also target John Smit, their inspirational hooker playing at tight head – a position he has played a lot over the last couple of years. Their bench is settled and strong.

When you look at the Boks side you really do wonder how the Lions are going to win this series.

First Test a must win for the Lions

The Lions will simply have to win this first test as the Boks will get stronger both as the series progresses and they move to altitude. The hope is that they will be underdone and that the collective will and individual brilliance of the likes of Brian O'Driscoll will tell.

All the speculation is nearly over and we have been told the team that will play against the Lions, by my reckoning the team that will play for the Lions will be: 15 Lee Byrne 14 Tommy Bowe 13 Brian O'Driscoll 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Ugo Monye 10 Stephen Jones 9 Mike Phillips 8 Jamie Heaslip 7 David Wallace 6 Tom Croft 5 Paul O'Connell 4 Alun-Wyn Jones 3 Phil Vickery 2 Lee Mears 1 Gethin Jenkins

Could that team win? Well any team with Brian O'Driscoll in it can win any game but the way the Southern Kings came at them will most likely be the way the Boks approach the game. And then some.

South Africa have waited for revenge for 1997 for 12 years and they expect this to be their time.