South African team Lions are ready to throw themselves into the EPCR Challenge Cup after learning their opponents for the pool stage.
The United Rugby Championship (URC) side will take on Stade Français Paris and Worcester Warriors in Pool B when the competition gets underway in December.
Head coach Ivan van Rooyen says everyone associated with the club is itching to get started after they were added to the tournament as part of a historical expansion for 2022/23 and beyond.
“We are really excited to be a part of the EPCR Challenge Cup,” he told The Citizen. “It’s a great opportunity, not just for the players, coaches and management, but also for the fans to really get deep into the European rugby culture.
📣 YOUR 2022/23 POOLS 🚨
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) June 28, 2022
“We have seen the excitement and the energy in the URC, and adding the French and English sides will only increase that.
“So, we are really looking forward to the challenge of playing in Europe, in new stadiums with a different style of rugby and coaching styles.”
There are several South African links to Lions’ two opponents – something van Rooyen was keen to highlight.
“We are playing Stade Français home and away in Paris. We know their rich history. They have a couple of South Africans in their team as well. [Lions] coach Ricardo [Loubscher] has coached there, so that is awesome,” he pointed out.
“They are one of the original powerhouses in French rugby and Worcester Warriors [are] a team with great character and a tough team. Duhan van der Merwe is there and Francois Venter is captain, so we will play a bit of South African flavour again.”