Dan Biggar has memories of O’Driscoll as he bids for Lions 10 jersey

31-year-old is familiar with the Springboks’ physicality as first Test match draws near

Dan Biggar is the form Lions outhalf heading into the opening Test against South Africa. Photograph: Steve Haag/PA

Dan Biggar is the form Lions outhalf heading into the opening Test against South Africa. Photograph: Steve Haag/PA

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Dan Biggar’s first memories of the Lions are as an 11-year-old boy, making his breakfast and sitting down in front of his TV at home to watch the 2001 first Test against the Wallabies and seeing Brian O’Driscoll doing his famous waltz from halfway.

“Yes, 2001, probably O’Driscoll’s try. That was my first real memory - that first Test - I think in the Gabba? That is when you realise that you plan your whole week or your whole day around the game.

“It’s a nice feeling thinking that 20-odd years ago, that was me settling down and watching and now hopefully being involved in Saturday for other people to watch.”

There’s every chance. Four years ago, Biggar played in five tour games, starting four of them, but despite playing well and conducting himself with his usual class throughout, Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell barred his way to the match-day Test ‘23’.

But as the form outhalf on this tour, the 31-year-old is sure to be involved this coming Saturday in the Cape Town Stadium.

A bright lad, engaging, pleasant and polite, this tour came at a difficult time after the recent passing of his mother Elizabeth.

In a touching tribute to her in his column for MailOnline over the weekend, Biggar said: “I would like to use this column to mention my special mum, Liz. From the day I started playing rugby, she was always my biggest supporter. She was always there. This week has been strange.

“Normally, she would always be on the phone asking who I’ve been spending time with and wanting to know the ins and outs of what I’ve been doing. We would speak all the time and it was a big comfort for me. It’s been hard.

“Mum watched the Lions squad announcement from the hospital and she was so pleased when my name was read out. At the time, when we didn’t know what would happen with her health, she told me to go to South Africa whatever the circumstances.

“That summed her up, always putting other people first. I usually keep my job separate from any emotional things back home, but I hope that I can use this tour to do her proud.”

After what he admitted has been a challenging few weeks, rugby has been a therapeutic distraction, and should be so again this week.

“It’ll be very emotional either way; that she’s not around to watch if the selection goes the right way and, from the other side, if the selection doesn’t go the right way, you’ve got one less person who is close to you to lean on.”

Both the Springboks and the Lions expect Handre Pollard to play after recovering from a bad knee injury to see out the end of the Top 14 season with Montpellier before starting the Boks’ warm-up win over Georgia.

“He’s an incredibly talented player. For me they’re a different team if he plays,” Biggar admitted. “Not to take away from what Morne Steyn has achieved in the game.”

Biggar has a 4-4 win-loss record with Wales against South Africa, albeit two of the defeats have been in a World Cup quarter-final and, most recently by 19-16 in a semi-final in Tokyo. That featured 81 kicks from hand (41 by Wales to 40 by the Boks). It was, eh, attritional.

“That’s a polite way of putting it. It’s one of those where at the time you can’t have many complaints about the standard of game from South Africa because they won it.

“When you play this side it comes down to very small margins. It’s losing your patience once in your own half costing you three points, or a drive to the corner. That could be the difference between being on the right end of a scoreline or the wrong end.”

First and foremost Biggar said the Lions have to meet the Boks’ physical challenge.

“Unless you match it, you’re in a bit of trouble really. You’re going to get overrun. I’m not saying like for like perhaps. Hopefully there’s an opportunity for us to move the ball a little. First and foremost, it’s about making sure you play in the right areas and taking your chances.

“We’ll have some plays up our sleeves to target some areas which we see as weaknesses. But ultimately, when you play this team, you know you’ve got to bar up physically otherwise everything you’ve planned for the week goes out the window.”

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