CAPE TOWN - What will the Lions class of 2021 look like?
Now that the trophy for the three Test series between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions has been unveiled, the excitement will continue to build, with Warren Gatland naming his squad for their tour of South Africa today (12:45pm SA time).
The B&I Lions' eagerly-awaited trip to South Africa will see the tourists attempt to repeat the heroics of 1997 as they battle it out for the ‘first perpetual trophy in the history of the British & Irish Lions', as SA Rugby proudly said in a statement Monday.
So, with less than two months to go before the quadrennial blockbuster kicks off, here are three points of interest ahead of Gatland's squad announcement.
1 Who will don the captaincy armband?
While there have been some talks around Englishmen Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell, who have both been tipped for the role, the news coming from up north will have us believe that Alun Wyn Jones is expected to take up the mantle.
Wyn Jones, rugby's most capped international player, is also the Wales skipper, so from a leadership perspective, he's a natural choice.
While Wyn Jones comes with a wealth of experience, Itoje - though probably unlikely - would also make an attractive choice, not only because he's a sure starter, but also because his physical abilities and age will allow him to still be able to consistently empty the tank during the series. Then there's the fact that he would be the Lions' first black captain …
Yes, yes, the common reason for those wanting Gatland to not opt for Itoje is probably the ‘don't make your best player your captain' argument, and while that's a valid one, especially stepping onto such a big stage, urging the lock to only focus on his game isn't a strong-enough reason to keep him away from the role.
2 How strong will the bolter flavour be?
Will there be a strong injection of the unexpected, or will Gatland tread on the conservative side?
There have been some famous bolters in the Lions squad over the years, but will the unique build-up to the event - riddled with uncertainty and disruption - see the Lions boss go with more of the tried and trusted?
Hopefully not. After all, once they get onto the field, the troubles of the previous months will disappear from the players' minds and game mode will be activated. So, a few in-form bolters could be a good addition.
These have been unprecedented times, so expecting there to be some difference in the overall vibe or make-up of the Lions squad isn't too bizarre a prediction.
While the empty stands will impact the Boks more than the Lions, there will still be a number of ways in which the Lions could be impacted.
Given the ongoing ravage of the coronavirus pandemic, there'll be no sightseeing or embracing the warm sand between your toes on the beach on off days for the Lions players.
While the difference in the leisure part of the tour may turn out to make no difference at all, you'd imagine that it will affect the players, at least psychologically.
Could that perhaps have influenced Gatland's decision, prompting him to look at the guys' character a bit more than he normally would? Nobody knows. But it just might have been a factor.