Preview – Emirates Lions Host Scarlets At Emirates Airline Park


The weekend’s exciting Vodacom United Rugby Championship ninth-round action will finish when the Emirate Lions host the Scarlets on Sunday at 13h30 in Johannesburg at the Emirates Airline Park.

The Emirates Lions won 33-25 at home over the Dragons last weekend to snap a two-game losing run and will be determined to maintain momentum against the Scarlets on Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg. The men from Johannesburg are seventh on the log, compared to the Scarlets’ 15th position.

Since losing their first fixture against a Welsh region on their trip to Llanelli in October 2021, the Emirates Lions have managed to build a six-game winning streak over Welsh opponents. Meanwhile, the Scarlets’ only victory in their last 10 fixtures was 36-12 at home to Zebre in mid-October.

They will be hoping for better luck on their Highveld safari, as the Welshmen have lost their last four against South African teams and have not won here since beating the Southern Kings in the Eastern Cape in 2018.

In the only previous meeting between the Emirates Lions and the Scarlets, the Welsh outfit bagged a solid 36-13 victory last October at the Parc y Scarlets.

Prediction: Emirates Lions with 10

Emirates Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has made 3 changes to his starting line-up.

Springbok Jaco Kriel makes a return to the Emirates Lions starting XV where he will be joined by flanker Darrien Landsberg who will make his VURC debut for the franchise, forming a dynamic loose-trio combination with Kriel and the athletic Emmanuel Tshituka who moves to eightman.

A late change was forced with the three-week suspension of centre Henco van Wyk who will be replaced by Sango Xamlashe in the outside centre.

The Joburg side will be looking at claiming a second successive victory in front of their home fans after a 33-25 win against Welsh outfit Dragons last Sunday.

Emirates Lions team boss Ivan Rooyen has identified the attacking nature of the Scarlets team and has prepared his side for a dynamic encounter in what is predicted to be sweltering conditions.

“We know Scarlets are a team who enjoy attacking and keeping the ball in play. If you look at their game against the DHL Stormers last week, the last 15-20 minutes featured plenty of attack from them which puts teams under huge defensive pressure,” cautioned van Rooyen”

“Reflecting on our fixture against them last year, we learnt huge defensive lessons and it’s something we’ve taken stock of ahead of Sunday,” he added.

Van Rooyen has challenged his troops to explore attacking options rather than to defend for long periods.

“It’s important for us not to sit back and try defend their attacking game but also see how our attacking game can put them under pressure. They are a team that keeps the ball in play, so I think it will be a great running spectacle on Sunday, which will be great for fans,” he concluded.

New Wales international Sam Costelow returns to the Scarlets' starting line-up as one of six changes.

Costelow, along with Dane Blacker, joined the tour party in Johannesburg this week after being part of Wales’ squad for the Autumn Nations series.

The 21-year-old is the only change in the back division that took the field in Cape Town for the loss to the Stormers, coming in at fly-half to partner the experienced Gareth Davies.

Up front, there is a new front row of Kemsley Mathias, Taylor Davies and WillGriff John, while Vaea Fifita returns to join fellow Tonga international Sam Lousi in the second row.

In the back row, Blade Thomson comes in at No. 8 for Sione Kalamafoni who drops to the bench.

Shaun Evans, Phil Price and Javan Sebastian are new faces among the replacements, as is scrum-half Blacker.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “It is going to be another big challenge. We need to manage the game and we have to cut out the errors because that will cost us. The Lions are a physical side, who want to play territory and put pressure on you. For us, we have to be bold, if you are not bold out here then it is a tough place to come.”


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

Scarlets: 15. Johnny McNicholl, 14. Tom Rogers, 13. Jonathan Davies (c), 12. Scott Williams, 11. Ryan Conbeer; 10. Sam Costelow, 9. Gareth Davies, 8. Blade Thomson, 7. Dan Davis, 6. Aaron Shingler, 5. Vaea Fifita, 4. Sam Lousi, 3. WillGriff John, 2. Taylor Davies, 1. Kemsley Mathias. Replacements: 16. Shaun Evans, 17. Phil Price, 18. Javan Sebastian, 19. Sione Kalamafoni, 20. Tomás Lezana, 21. Dane Blacker, 22. Rhys Patchell, 23. Steff Evans.