Emirates Lions Looking For 4th Win In A Row Against Star-studded Edinburgh


The Emirates Lions will target their fourth successive home win when they take the field against Edinburgh @ 16h05 at the Emirates Airline Park.

Edinburgh will be charged up after their morale-boosting victory against the Durbanites, while the home side should be wary of the fact that they would have to deliver a classy performance all around to secure the victory.

The Emirates Lions should also be mindful of the fact that the fifth-placed Edinburgh have lost only one of their last nine fixtures against South African opponents.

Emirates Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has named loosehead prop JP Smith to start for his team’s encounter against Scottish outfit Edinburgh in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship at Emirates Airline Park this Saturday. Smith comes in for regular starter Sti Sithole who has been rested after a series of matches in the competition.

Hooker PJ Botha and centre Manuel Rass come in for Jaco Visagie and Burger Odendaal, respectively.

“Jaco and Burger were close contacts earlier in the week, so COVID-19 protocols mean they needed to be away from the team to mitigate risk. They will be assessed on Monday next week,” explains Van Rooyen.

Speaking on Smith’s inclusion, the Lions mentor says the loosehead prop has been rewarded for great performances across all competitions.

“JP has impressed us in both the Carling Currie Cup as well as stints in the URC, so we are eager to see what he can offer us from minute one,” said Van Rooyen.

The Johannesburg-based side, led by lock Reinhard Nothnagel, will look to continue their positive string of results against northern hemisphere opposition, following wins against Cardiff, Munster and Ospreys in recent weeks.

Van Rooyen however cautioned against taking the foot off the pedal especially against a side who recorded a big win last weekend in Durban.

“Edinburgh were successful last week, so they might fancy their chances up here. Likewise, we’ve had a string of positive results in recent weeks which has certainly motivated us to improve on our performances as the tournament progresses.”

With the recent announcement by government to relax COVID-19 restrictions, Van Rooyen believes an increase in fan attendance is a major boost for the sport.

“It’s always fantastic playing in front of a packed stadium, so we’re looking forward to experiencing that kind of atmosphere once more with the increase of the number of fans at sports venues. As a team, it certainly plays a huge role from a motivation point of view,” he concluded.

Edinburgh Rugby welcomed back Scotland internationalists Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist and Darcy Graham to their starting XV.

Nel (prop), McInally (hooker), Gilchrist (lock) and Graham (wing) linked up with the touring squad in South Africa earlier this week and join Schoeman (prop) – who was the 24th man for Saturday’s victory over Cell C Sharks – in the capital side’s starting line-up.

Fullback Henry Immleman returns to once again claim the number 15 jersey in the only other change to last weekend’s winning side.

Ahead of the match in Johannesburg, Head Coach Mike Blair, said: “We’ve spoken a lot this week about backing up Saturday’s win in Durban with another strong performance against Emirates Lions.

“We’ve seen a real focus among the squad throughout this week’s training and I know the guys will be desperate to once again show that determination and commitment to the jersey that we saw in spades last weekend.

“It’s going to take another massive 80-minute performance in Johannesburg against a really confident Lions side but we’re up for the challenge and look forward to once again representing the club and city in one of world rugby’s most iconic stadiums.”

With Immelman returning at fullback, Argentine international Emilano Boffelli – who notched up 11 points in the win over Sharks – switches to wing alongside Scotland flyer Graham.

Centre duo James Lang and Mark Bennett once again link up in midfield, while stand-off Blair Kinghorn – two-time try-scorer and Player of the Match against Cell C Sharks – continues alongside scrum-half Ben Vellacott at half-back.

A refreshed front-row group sees hooker McInally pack down alongside props Schoeman and Nel, while experienced lock Gilchrist returns to partner Pierce Phillips in the boiler room.

Number 8 Ben Muncaster anchors an unchanged back-row that sees club centurions Magnus Bradbury and Hamish Watson complete the pack.

Weather: 25° with 13km/h NNW wind, cloudy with 35% humidity with a possibility of thunderstorms.
Prediction: Edinburgh by 8.


Emirates Lions: 15. Quan Horn, 14. Rabz Maxwane, 13. Wandisile Simelane, 12. Manuel Rass, 11. Edwill van der Merwe, 10. Jordan Hendrikse, 9. Morne van den Berg, 8. Emmanuel Tshituka, 7. Vincent Tshituka, 6. Francke Horn, 5. Reinhard Nothnagel (capt), 4. Ruben Schoeman, 3. Carlu Sadie, 2. PJ Botha, 1. JP Smith. Replacements: 16. Morne Brandon, 17. Ruan Dreyer, 18. Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19. Ruan Venter, 20. Sibusiso Sangweni, 21. Andre Warner, 22. Henco van Wyk, 23. Tiaan Swanepoel.

Edinburgh: 15. Henry Immelman, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. James Lang, 11. Emiliano Boffelli, 10. Blair Kinghorn, 9. Ben Vellacott, 8. Ben Muncaster, 7. Hamish Watson, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 5. Grant Gilchrist (c), 4. Pierce Phillips, 3. Willem Nel, 2. Stuart McInally, 1. Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: 16. Dave Cherry, 17. Boan Venter, 18. Luan de Bruin, 19. Glen Young, 20. Connor Boyle, 21. Charlie Shiel, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Matt Currie.