Countdown to kick-off: Emirates Lions preview
The countdown to kick-off continues... With the 2023/24 BKT United Rugby Championship fast approaching, we're profiling all of our home opponents for the season, starting with Emirates Lions.
Hive stadium plays host to the men from Johannesburg in our opening home fixture of the season (Saturday 28 October, kick-off 5pm), with anticipation already building for a crunch match in the capital.
Tickets for the Round 2 URC clash go on pubic sale this Thursday (21 September)! Fans can secure their season ticket HERE to guarantee their place at every regular season home game at Hive Stadium in 2023/24.
ABOUT THE LIONS
The Emirates Lions, originally the Golden Lions, are a club steeped in history and tradition, with more than a smattering of success since their formation in 1889.
Playing their home fixtures at the iconic Emirates Airlink Park (Ellis Park), the Lions have gone on to claim 11 Currie Cup titles, reached a Super Rugby title, whilst also producing a long list of Springbok legends including Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana.
The Lions’ iconic colours of red, white, black and gold have a strong Scottish connection, with the union adopting the famous Kilmarnock Rugby strip of white top with red hoop as a Kilmarnock member, Alex Frew, captained them when they beat The British Isles touring team in 1903.
LAST TIME OUT
The Joburg side has a 100% record against Edinburgh in the BKT URC, claiming two tight wins since 2021/22. Last time out the Lions toppled the capital men with a gut-wrenching last-minute penalty from Gianni Lombard claiming the win for the visitors.
A topsy-turvy affair, it looked throughout like Edinburgh would pull away to win, however scores from Bill Mata, Darcy Graham and Ben Muncaster were all cancelled out with the Lions showing a never-say-die attitude to stay in the tie.
With the sides separated by six points at Ellis Park the season before, it’s set to be another nail-biting match as the sides clash in October.
The Lions boast several exciting future stars and will arrive in the capital with a young squad full of potential.
Henco van Wyk is one such player, with the young centre already familiar to the capital faithful having scored in last season’s fixture. A balanced and hard runner, the Junior Springbok Player of the Year in 2021 has been gathering attention for standout performances in the BKT URC.
There is further stardust in the backs; winger Edwill van der Merwe has gas to spare, while scrum-half Sanele Nohamba isn’t lacking in creativity and dogged resolve. As well as pace, the Lions can call on the grunt of Marius Louw – the experienced campaigner equally adept in the centres and back row.
Up front, the visitors have hard hitters aplenty, in particular with upcoming back rowers Emmanuel Tshituka and Ruan Venter; the latter gaining notoriety for his abrasive battle against Hamish Watson last time out.
The Lions have been relatively quiet in the “transfer window”, but have added players with bags of potential in Currie Cup duo of Conraad van Vuuren (prop) and Zander du Plessis (Fly-half) from the Cheetahs and Griquas respectively.
From the BKT URC they have added South African pair of Erich Cronjé (centre) and giant fullback Richard Kriel from Zebre, and will have exciting fly-half Kade Wolhuter joining them on loan from the DHL Stormers for the season.