FOUR down, two to go. With the bulk of the warm-up games having been played, Lions head coach Warren Gatland will now have a very clear idea of his matchday 23 for the first Test against the Springboks a week on Saturday. 

Strong performances in either of this week’s matches could be enough for two or three players to force their way into consideration, but clearly, Gatland will come to several decisions based on what he knows some players are capable of rather than what they have done over the last fortnight or so.

That is likely to be good news for stalwarts such as tour captain Conor Murray who have yet to hit top form in South Africa, and bad news for impressive newcomers such as Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe.

The make-up of the starting 15 tends to change dramatically over the course of a Lions Test series, but for the first match at least, the coach looks like erring on the cautious side.

That means going for maximum bulk in some of his choices, and maximum experience in many, with the latter quality particularly useful on a tour that has not had its problems to seek.

READ MORE: Scotland's Finn Russell out of next three British & Irish Lions matches in South Africa with Achilles injury

Presuming that Gatland does indeed regard such qualities as paramount, we can expect him to select a side like the following: 

15 Stuart Hogg - The Scotland captain has had to sit out the last two matches, but provided he is able to start a game this week his kicking ability and counter-attacking threat should get him into the side for that first Test in Cape Town.

14 Anthony Watson - The English winger performed well enough on Saturday, his first start of the tour, but it will be his proven ability rather than his showing against the Sharks that should see him start on the right wing.

13 Elliot Daly - You do not select players out of position on a mere whim at this level, and Gatland’s decision to play the back-three man at outside centre in the warm-up games suggests he plans to do the same in the Tests, even though Scotland’s Chris Harris has arguably played better than the Saracens back so far.

12 Robbie Henshaw - The Leinster centre is up and running again after injury, and provided he proves his match fitness in one of this week’s matches he will be in the midfield for the first Test. If not, fellow-Ireland centre Bundee Aki will step in.

11 Josh Adams - Yes, some of his eight tries have been ‘walk-ins’, as the man himself said, but his reading of the game along with his all-round ability should see him get a place on the left wing.

10 Dan Biggar - With Finn Russell’s tour now in doubt, the Welshman only has Owen Farrell as competition for the stand-off spot. Farrell’s advantage is that he can also play at 12, but judged purely as a stand-off Biggar has a greater variety to his game. 

9 Conor Murray - The Irish scrum-half has not looked as lively as Ali Price so far, but when Gatland named him tour captain a fortnight ago it was a clear indication of who will wear the No 9 jersey. 

1 Rory Sutherland - His powerful counter-rucking and strength in the set scrum should be enough to make the Hawick man the starting loosehead prop.  

2 Jamie George - The fight for the hooker’s jersey is one of the closest in the team, but the Englishman, captain on Saturday, looks like shading it.

3 Tadhg Furlong - The Irishman’s name was heavily pencilled in for the tighthead berth before the series began, and nothing has happened since to make Gatland think again.

4 Maro Itoje - As long as he shakes off the gastric bug which forced him to drop out of the team on Saturday, the English lock looks sure of a place in the engine room.

5 Iain Henderson - Captain in the first Sharks match, the Ulster lock offers experienced leadership in the most demanding of positions.

6 Tadhg Beirne - The Irish blindside faces a close fight with Courtney Lawes for the jersey, but the Englishman’s versatility may count against him.

7 Hamish Watson - The Scotland openside is at the top of his game right now and will provide a point of difference in the back row. While the bulk of Beirne and Simmonds will be needed to fight the Springboks to a standstill and ensure the Lions have something close to parity of possession, Watson’s speed at the breakdown will be one of the tourists’ two or three most important weapons if they are then to gain the upper hand.

8 Sam Simmonds - The English forward’s rumbustious and unpredictable broken-play breenges are exactly what is needed to throw the Springboks off their stride.

Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams.

Omitted: Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Marcus Smith, Ali Price, Mako Vunipola, Ken Owens, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Hill, Adam Beard, Josh Navidi, Tom Curry, Taulupe Faletau.