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Emirates Lions play their first ever EPCR knockout game on Saturday, when they welcome French heavyweights Racing 92 to Johannesburg in the Round of 16.
The South African side have enjoyed a solid start to life in EPCR competitions and were unbeaten at Emirates Airline Park in the pool stage, drawing 31-31 with Dragons RFC and beating Stade Français Paris 30-12.
Despite a 17-7 loss at Stade Français in Round 3, Emirates Lions bounced back with a 30-25 win at Dragons to secure third place in Pool B.
However, three-time Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing will pose an immense challenge given their EPCR pedigree.
The TOP 14 outfit endured a difficult Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, losing three times before beating Harlequins 30-29 at the Paris La Defense Arena in Round 3 to earn a place in the EPCR Challenge Cup knockouts.
The match gets underway at 17:30 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on SuperSport, beIN SPORTS, Viaplay-Premier Sports and FloRugby.
𝔾𝔸𝕄𝔼 𝕎𝔼𝔼𝕂 👊
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) March 27, 2023
Emirates Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen: “They are going to be travelling, so it is going to be important for us to be accurate this week in training and really start like a house on fire against them to put them under pressure.”
- Jordan Hendrikse scored more points than any other player in Round 4 (20). Missing just one shot at goal, his kick success rate was 88 per cent. However, he is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
- Jean Pierre-Smith is the only player in the competition to have received two yellow cards.
- Marius Louw has missed the most tackles in the EPCR Challenge Cup (nine).
- Emmanuel Tshituka has made more dominant carries than any other player (17) — 43 per cent of his total tackles.
- Finn Russell conceded the most turnovers in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage (12). However, he also kicked the most retained restarts (six) and made more offloads than any other player in Round 4 (five).
- Gaël Fickou won six turnovers in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage – the highest total achieved by a back.
- In Round 4, Janick Tarrit threw in more successful lineouts than any other player (19).
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14-man Emirates Lions battled to victory in their first ever EPCR Challenge Cup knockout stage game in Johannesburg on Saturday evening, beating Racing 92 51-28 to reach the quarter-finals.
The win against the TOP 14 heavyweights saw them set up a trip to Glasgow Warriors in the last eight next weekend.
It was a wonderful start for the hosts, with tries from Marius Louw and Edwill van der Merwe within the first seven minutes leaving Racing reeling.
Turning 𝗼𝗻 the ‘𝘌𝘥𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘷𝘢𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘦𝘳𝘸𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦’ switch 💡
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) April 1, 2023
But then a red card for Emmanuel Tshituka just after the quarter-hour mark looked like it might turn the game in Racing’s favour.
Yet it was Emirates Lions who continued to push, adding tries from Rabz Maxwane and Ruan Venter, on the stroke of half-time.
Louw got his brace ten minutes into the second half, with Gianni Lombard notching the sixth. Sanele Nohamba, who kicked excellently throughout, got a try as well for personal haul of 18 points.
Ben Volavola and Donovan Taofifenua both got tries back for the visitors but the gap proved too big to close.