URC Preview – Emirates Lions Hunting Third Win In Four Home Outings Against Dragons RFC


The Emirates Lions will be hunting their third win in four outings when they host the Dragons RFC at Emirates Airline Park at 17:05 (SA Time), and there is no doubt the Welsh visitors’ heavy defeat last week will add to their motivation.

The Johannesburgers are also only four points short of being in the top eight on the log, but they will be careful about underestimating the Dragons, especially with only one win more in the competition so far and with the Welsh club hurting from their result last week.

The hosts will be inspired by the fact that their only previous defeat to a Welsh team was in Llanelli in October 2021, as well as the fact that the Dragons don’t have a good track record against South African opponents, with their last win being in 2020.

Emirates Lions Head Coach Ivan van Rooyen has named an unchanged match 23.

After an impressive 61-19 victory over Zebre Parma last weekend, which saw the Joburgers dot down nine times, the Lions faithful will be hoping for more of the same this Saturday from a team who seem to be on the up following narrow defeats on their recent tour.

Forwards and Lineout Coach Barend Pieterse on how he and his management keep the guys motivated after a big victory last weekend.

“If I must be honest, it’s not difficult to motivate this group of players. The losses have been so close at the beginning, but we managed to walk away from those games with a point or two. It’s more about keeping their energy intact ahead of Saturday against the Dragons. 

“Dragons have quality players, and they have a good system-their lineouts in particular, so we are looking forward to a tough game on Saturday. It’s a 17:00 kick-off so we can’t really bargain on the sun like last week. Ultimately, we need to rock up this weekend and execute what we’ve been training on this week.”

Centre Steff Hughes will captain Dragons RFC at Emirates Airline Park and is one of seven changes made by Head Coach Dai Flanagan.

Fullback Jordan Williams returns in the back line while wing Ashton Hewitt and scrumhalf Rhodri Williams are also handed starting spots.

Back row Harrison Keddie is back in the seven jersey while props Rhodri Jones and Lloyd Fairbrother are recalled upfront.

Wales Under-20 captain Ryan Woodman is set for his first action of the tour after being named among the replacements.

Ahead of the Round 7 fixture, Flanagan has urged his team to learn the lessons of defeat in Durban last weekend and make a strong start at altitude.

“The first 20 minutes we need to go and attack. We can't sit back on our heels and as then we know the game is going to level off,” he said.

“We need to see consistency in our style too. I wouldn't expect to see the number of turnovers I saw last week.

“The players care a lot, but last weekend they tried to solve issues themselves. You don't win fights against 15 people on your own. You do it as 15 people.

“We found that with one or two players trying to do a bit too much. We’ve got to be more united and collective, and have a bit more consistency about what we want to do.

“We played Lions twice last year and we know all about the altitude, so we don’t need to speak about it. It hurts, but it hurts for both teams.

“What they'll do is try and keep the ball on the field early and try to attack all out for the first 20 minutes.

“They won't take pot-shots at goal, they will go to the corner to get that scoreboard to tick over to 20 points like they did against Zebre. Our challenge is to turn that on its head.”


Emirates Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Richard Kriel, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw (c), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Sanele Nohamba, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Emmanuel Tshituka, 5 Ruan Delport, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 PJ Botha, 1 JP Smith. Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Hanru Sirgel, 21 JC Pretorius, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Rabz Maxwane.

Dragons RFC: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Steff Hughes (c), 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Harri Keddie, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 George Nott, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Rhodri Jones. Replacements: 16 James Benjamin, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Luke Yendle, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Ryan Woodman, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Aneurin Owen, 23 Ewan Rosser.