The four South African Franchises have named their first touring squads to start the newly formed United Rugby Championship this weekend.
It is going to be a difficult start for the South African teams going into the competition without their Springboks but the coaches and players are excited to test themselves in Europe.
On Friday the Emirates Lions will kick of the season in the first match against Zebre with Ulster and Glasgow as well as Cardiff and Connact also starting their campaigns on Friday evening.
The Stormers will play Benetton on Saturday as well as the Bulls going up against the Champion side Leinster.
The Sharks ends Saturday clashes off with their first round match against Munster. The last match this weekend sees the Dragons hosting Ospreys on Sunday.
Lets have a look at the Emirates Lions
The Lions had a pretty poor Carling Currie Cup and will themselves admit that they were way behind their best in the competition and in fact throughout the year their performances was far below what we are used to from the men in red and white.
They are looking to turn their fortunes around with some new faces in the team and on the coaches bench as well.
It was an exciting announcement a few weeks ago when the names of Albert Van den Berg, Ricardo Loubscher and Jacque Fourie names was announce as part of the Emirates Lions coaching team for the URC.
Ivan van Rooyen will have plenty of knowledge and experience to tap into with his new team and fans can expect this team to get better and better in this tournament.
Van den Berg joined the Lions after a very successful sting at Griquas who had with some unknown players reaching the playoffs of the Currie Cup.
This from a team who ended stone last in the previous season of the competition. He will be taking charge of the forwards and lineouts.
Ricardo Laubscher is another skilful coach who’s experience will be gold for this young Lions team. He is a former Springbok assistant coach who also worked with Bulls, Sharks and Stade Francais adds so much to the coaching team. Loubscher will be in charge of the backline.
Jacque Fourie needs no introduction to any rugby fan. Even in his playing days he was seen as the defence organiser for any team he played and it was just that that made him such a great in his time. He will take charge of the Lions defence.
The Lions have announced a 33-man squad to tour in Europe for the first leg of the tournament. They will face Zebre on the 24th Sept, Scarlets on the 1st of October, Glasgow on the 9th and Ulster on the 15th.
Van Rooyen believes his squad will be able to adopt to the challenge the next four weeks will bring. In a way the Lions have been lucky that they did not take part in the playoffs of the Currie Cup which gave the new coaching team and players the opportunity to get to know each other and form a clear plan for the tour.
Although Van Rooyen expect the conditions to be challenging, he does believe they can get their tournament going on this first tour.
Fans will be happy to see Wilhelm van Der Sluys back in the squad after an injury. They also have some players on loan that joined the Lions in Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Eddie Fouche, Matt More, Morgan Naude and Ginter Smuts who will all add great value to the squad.
Unfortunately Ross Cronje, Gianni Lombard and Willem Alberts were not considered for the tour due to injury.
The name of Jaco Kriel will also excite Lions fans after he also struggled the last year with injuries.
Here is the Emirates Lions URC Touring Squad
PJ Botha, Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie Du Plessis, Francke Horn, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel Morgan Naude, Reinhard Nothnagel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Jaco Visagie.
Eddie Fouche, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane, Matt More, Burger Odendaal,
Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Divan Rossouw, Wandisile Simelane, Ginter Smuts, Jamba Ulengo, Morne Van den Berg, EW Viljoen and Andre Warner.