Emirates Lions Name Team To Host Dragons RFC


The Emirates Lions will make history this Saturday as the first of two South African teams to participate in the 2022/23 European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) Challenge Cup against the Dragons from Wales at Emirates Airline Park. The Toyota Cheetahs take on Pau in the following match.

Fresh from a home victory last week in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, the focus now shifts to the EPCR Challenge Cup where the team from Johannesburg will look at stamping their authority in what will be a historic occasion for the franchise and its supporters.

Earlier this week, Emirates Lions mentor Ivan van Rooyen spoke extensively on squad selection ahead of what will be a testing eight weeks for his troops in all competitions.

“We have rotated and rested a few our guys in recent games. We saw Jaco Kriel make a comfortable return to play after a long injury last week,” explains Van Rooyen.

“It’s pleasing to know that we have a relatively healthy squad with no new injuries ahead of tomorrow. These next two weeks at home will be an ideal opportunity to subtly rotate the squad especially looking at the spine of the squad.”

Due the magnitude of the EPCR Challenge Cup, it’s a dream for any player to be part of such a historic occasion. However, Van Rooyen believes squad management is key.

“If we honest about the bigger picture in terms of the number of games ahead, the core group will be involved in both international competitions, he explains.

Of course, for some of these players it will be nice to play in our first game of the EPCR Challenge Cup, but hopefully we can get close the play-offs and have everyone available at that juncture. Ultimately, it’s about balancing the bigger picture and being part of this historic occasion,” concluded.

Centre Rynhardt Jonker makes his debut for the Emirates Lions off the bench, while experienced fullback Andries ‘Boeboes’ Coetzee returns in concert with Edwill van der Merwe and Rabz Maxwane at the back. Zander du Plessis gets a starting opportunity at 12 alongside Sango Xamlashe in the midfield.

Emirates Lions: 1. Sti Sithole, 2. PJ Botha, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 4. Ruben Schoeman, 5. Reinhard Nothnagel (c), 6. Jaco Kriel, 7. Darrien Landsberg, 8. Emmanuel Tshituka, 9. Andre Warner, 10. Gianni Lombard, 11. Edwill van der Merwe, 12. Zander du Plessis, 13. Sango Xamlashe, 14. Rabz Maxwane, 15. Andries Coetzee. Replacements: 16. Jaco Visagie, 17. JP Smith, 18. Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19. Ruan Venter, 20. Sibusiso Sangweni, 21. Sanele Nohamba, 22. Jordan Hendrikse, 23. Rynhardt Jonker.