EPCR Challenge Cup Preview – Emirates Lions Will Challenge For Win Until Final Seconds Against Montpellier


The clash between the Emirates Lions and Montpellier at the GGL Stadium on Saturday at 22:00 (SA Time) could also prove to be a humdinger with both teams currently unbeaten in the EPCR Challenge Cup.

The Johannesburgers will draw inspiration from the fact that they staged a dramatic second-half comeback to defeat the Hollywoodbets Sharks in the Vodacom URC last weekend, while they also boast a better record in the competition than Montpellier’s in the Top 14, with four wins in eight matches to the hosts’ three in 12 outings.

That said, the Emirates Lions will be mindful of the fact that Montpellier has won their last three home matches, the last of which was a confidence-boosting 27-17 victory against Toulon, meaning it could prove to be a tight tussle.

Speaking earlier in the week, Emirates Lions’ forwards and lineout guru Barend Pieterse acknowledged the challenge his team will face on Saturday evening against in what he terms ‘a really good’ Montpellier squad, who’s Top 14 performances are a far cry from their table-topping position in Pool 2 of the Challenge Cup.

“It’s obviously going to be a quite on Saturday night. If you look at their squad, it’s a really good squad,” expressed Pieterse.

“Ours is to stick to what’s been working for us in the past weeks across the competitions we have been involved in. They have big forwards, so our main challenge will be upfront especially looking at the type of players they have. We expect a strong squad as they are in a strong position in this competition. We believe up front will be a massive challenge size-wise and the experience they have they have in their squad.”

“The squad is in a good place at the moment. There are one or two guys who have not had many opportunities, so it’s nice to see them get a run. Furthermore, it helps us create depth within the squad. We are lucky enough to be in a position to give players the opportunity, but the main reason is to test our depth," assisteant coach Barend Pieterse said.

In team news, the Jaco Visagie-led match 23 sees prop forward Conrad van Vuuren gets his first start of the season ever since joining the franchise at the beginning of the season. Saturday also sees the return of Stean Pienaar who runs out in the number 14 jumper.

Montpellier Herault Rugby: 15 Julien Tisseron, 14 George Bridge, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jan Serfontein (captain), 11 Masi Dakuwaqa, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mael Perrin, 7 Clement Doumenc, 6 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 5 Bastien Chalureau, 4 Tyler Duguid, 3 Lasha Macharashvili, 2 Vano Karkadze, 1 Gregory Fichten. Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Enzo Forletta, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Cantin Foguet, 21 Louis Foursans-Bourdette, 22 Auguste Cadot, 23 Thomas Darmon.

Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Rynhardt Jonker, 11 Boldwin Hansen, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Hanru Sirgel, 7 Izan Esterhuizen, 6 JC Pretorius, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie (captain), 1 Morgan Naudé. Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Raynard Roets, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Travis Gordon, 22 Johan Mulder, 23 Gianni Lombard.