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Lions have a mountain to climb to top kicking kings in Second Test

SOUTH AFRICA vs. BRITISH LIONS<br /><br />SECOND TEST - TOMORROW, 2PM - SKY SPORTS 1<br /><br />THE CURRENT incarnation of the Lions squad may be the first to have gone unbeaten against provincial opposition on a tour since 1989, but that does not really tell the full story of a month of mixed success in South Africa. It could also be said that on the way to defeat in last Saturday&rsquo;s Test the Lions played the better rugby, only for a lack of discipline in the scrum and some clinical spot-kicking to gift the South Africans early points and what proved to be an unassailable 26-7 lead on the hour. Nevertheless, some encouraging play in Durban did not impress the bookies &ndash; South Africa are priced at just 4/11 with Boylesports for victory in the Second Test.<br /><br />Tomorrow&rsquo;s venue is likely to be significant, with the steep stands and famously partisan supporters at Pretoria&rsquo;s Loftus Versfeld making for one of the most intimidating arenas in the world. The All Blacks are the only team to have beaten South Africa here in the last 15 years, although the Lions do have history on their side &ndash; they can boast three victories from their last four Tests in Pretoria, including an emphatic 28-9 win on the 1974 tour.<br /><br />The largest barrier to the Lions levelling the series however may well be that the stadium sits at an altitude of 4,500ft. The thinner air will undoubtedly take its toll on the lungs, no matter how fit players are required to be in the professional era. It won&rsquo;t help that the Lions will have spent most of their preparation time in Cape Town after Tuesday&rsquo;s match and the team have given themselves just one day to acclimatise. But more so than the ability of the teams to cope with the altitude, the outcome of the match is likely to be determined by the increased distance that the ball will travel from the boot. Unfortunately for TV viewers, the match will probably be played out in a series of ping-pong territorial battles and the power and accuracy of South Africa&rsquo;s kickers, notably giant-thighed full-back Francois Steyn, gives the Springboks a huge advantage.<br /><br />Last week we did well to back the Lions with the handicap, but I just cannot see them getting as close tomorrow. Again this weekend the best bet looks to be in the handicap market, but this time I will be siding with South Africa, conceding an eight point start, at 10/11 with Boylesports. The Springboks will come back much stronger having learnt from a few of their mistakes, in particular the relative ease with which Lions centres Jamie Roberts and Brian O&rsquo;Driscoll found their way through the back line. It comes as little surprise that flanker Schalk Burger has been rushed back into the &lsquo;Boks squad with a brief to limit similarly penetrating runs.<br /><br />Lions Coach Ian McGeechan is normally a shrewd tactician and he will be aware that the extreme conditions will be his team&rsquo;s downfall if they try to play at a normal pace for a full 80 minutes. The alternative, as shown by a number of visitors to Loftus Versfeld in the Southern Hemisphere&rsquo;s Super 14 club championship, is to kick long and conserve energy. South Africa should win most kicking exchanges, are superior in the lineout and more powerful up front so the Lions will find it difficult to string plays together, as they did last week, and will struggle to put points on the board. Selling Lions points with Sporting Index looks the right spread betting option. Exactly the same arguments hold for the final Test in Johannesburg, which is at an even greater altitude, making a 3-0 series win, available at 8/11 on Betdaq, also fairly attractive.<br /><br /><strong>POINTERS...</strong><br />South Africa to win (-8 handicap) at 10/11 with Boylesports<br />Sell Lions points at 18 with Sporting Index<br />South Africa to win Test series 3-0 at 8/11 on Betdaq<br />