As we continue our series profiling EPCR Challenge Cup Pool B teams, it’s time to take a look at South African franchise Emirates Lions.

EPCR Challenge Cup record

It is the Emirates Lions’ first ever EPCR Challenge Cup campaign, with the side from Johannesburg joining the competition as part of the landmark inclusion of South African sides in EPCR competitions for the first time in 2022-23.

Last season

Although they didn’t feature in any EPCR tournaments, the Emirates Lions did make their debut in the United Rugby Championship (URC) in 2021-22, when they finished 12th.

Head coach

Ivan van Rooyen has been Emirates Lions’ head coach since 2019. He originally joined the Lions setup in 2009 and worked with their junior sides while also assisting as a senior strength and conditioning coach.

He was then appointed head of strength and conditioning in 2012 and led the franchise’s Currie Cup teams in 2018 and 2019, before graduating to his current role.

Key players

Emirates Lions boast ex-Stade Français Paris lock Willem Alberts, who helped the French club win the 2017 Challenge Cup final as a replacement via a 25-17 victory against Gloucester Rugby.

Flanker Jaco Kriel and prop Ruan Dreyer are two other Emirates Lions who have played for a European club, having represented Gloucester, while full-back Andries Coetzee joined the South African side from Italian outfit Benetton Rugby in the summer.


Emirates Lions will first host Dragons at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on December 10, with the reverse fixture closing their Pool B campaign on January 22.

In between those matches are home and away ties against Stade Français Paris, on December 16 and January 14 respectively.