It was Winston Churchill who once said “if you’re going through Hell, keep going.” The ultimate British Lion had his faults, and they were many, but I’m pretty sure that if he hadn’t played a great game and led these nations against the Nazis in 1940 then we would all have been speaking German in the Germanic States of Europe now.

Oh for a Churchill, if only to find the words to inspire the British and Irish Lions as they prepare for the first Test in Cape Town Stadium a week on Saturday, July 24, at 5pm BST.

The impact of Covid-19 on this Tour will never be forgotten. I was reminiscing with a pal who has been on two tours before, and he feels the greatest regret of the Lions themselves will have been the curtailed opportunities to visit parts of South Africa. Touring isn’t just about training and playing, it’s an immersive experience that changes people, nearly always for the better, and the people of South Africa had huge welcomes ready for the Lions all over the country, but all of that has gone by the by.

The Lions have moved to Cape Town and tonight they will play South Africa A in what is by far the biggest task of the tour so far. Some have called it the unofficial Fourth Test and I am not disagreeing with that.

Beating the Cell C Sharks over two matches by a combined score of 125-38 is not the sort of warm-up that head coach Warren Gatland and his assistants would have wanted and the usual principle that players can come to the fore in provincial matches and claim a Test place is out the window.

We’ll know a lot more after tonight’s game for which South Africa have named a very strong team, indeed almost a full Test XV plus replacements. Put it this way, any side which has Willie le Roux, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe in its starting line-up is more of an A-plus rather than just an A team.

You can’t blame the Springbok management for playing such a strong team, as they have only had the one warm-up Test against Georgia and lost the second match to the virus. There are undoubtedly many of the Boks who need more game time on the pitch rather than the training ground and I think South Africa are undoubtedly seeing this match as a way of preparing their best players for the real Test next week. That’s how it reads on paper, and it will be very interesting to see the tactics employed by the Boks – will they show their hand ahead of the Test and do they have any variation on the very successful approach that won them the World Cup nearly two years ago? Or will they simply play the usual Springbok way and hammer the Lions up front before taking the ball out wide?

Gatland has also named a very strong team, one that has the look of a possible Test side about it, in which case it’s bad news for Stuart Hogg and Hamish Watson who are not even on the bench tonight, and as for Finn Russell it really is stretching belief to think that he will recover from his Achilles tendon injury in time for the first Test.

Then again if the Springboks A-plussers do as I expect and make this a hugely physical encounter then the Lions might just get brushed aside and that would do no favours to any of the players in red tonight. There are Test places on the line, for sure, though I suspect Gatland already knows his best XV – put it this way, I don’t think he will wait until another likely mismatch, Saturday’s game against DHL Stormers, before making his Test selection.

At the time of writing, one major decision was waiting to be made back in Blighty. Alun Wyn Jones had a second training session with the Wales squad yesterday to see if he has fully recovered from the dislocated shoulder he suffered against Japan. A decision is expected today and it would be fantastic news and frankly a tour changer if the great Welsh forward could rejoin the Lions and resume the captaincy. I am sure Conor Murray would be disappointed to lose the captaincy, but I am also sure he would be absolutely delighted to see Jones back in the scarlet jersey for one last Lions hurrah. I think Jones should be given every chance to go back on the Tour, as he is a colossal influence on and off the pitch.

In the old days, leaving the Tour was pretty much a permanent thing, but times have changed and Alun Wyn Jones returning to the fold would be an incredible boost to the British and Irish Lions.