Late Tshituka brace keeps Lions' hopes alive

rugby11 May 2024 18:35| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel

A later brace by replacement flanker Emmanuel Tshituka secured a crucial bonus point for the Emirates Lions and kept their hopes of a top eight spot alive as they cruised to a 34-13 win over Cardiff in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

When Tshituka came onto the field, his side had surrendered a 20-3 lead to see Cardiff claw their way back to 20-13 after dominating the first part of the second half, but then showed some barnstorming form to get his team out of their hole and power them home to a bonus point win.

It was a surprise earlier in the week when Tshituka was left out of the starting line-up but he decided to drive a point home when he came onto the field to ensure he won’t be ignored again.

At that stage the Lions looked listless, and were struggling as Cardiff were mounting their comeback but he provided the spark that was needed to get them onto the front foot.

His first try came at the back of a power maul where he went over to shouts of joy and was elated to have taken the ball over the line.

Then Tshituka broke free in his own 22, stepping out of a tackle and thundering downfield before the move came undone.

But it wasn’t too long before he was again thumping his way down the turf, this time it came from a turnover, a kick ahead by Erich Cronje, which the midfielder collected and drew the defender, before passing inside to Tshituka to do a swallow dive over the line and collect the bonus point to the relief of Lions fans.

It leaves the Lions with an outside chance of making the top eight and securing qualification for the Investec Champions Cup next season. But it won’t be easy.

The combination of earlier season blips and the Sharks losing to Benetton in Durban leaves the Lions in tenth spot with a lot of work to do in their final two games against log leaders Glasgow Warriors and away against the Stormers.

Their biggest issue may be their own inconsistency, which has plagued them all season and stopped them from putting more than one good performance together before a flat one arrives.


But on a warm autumn day, the Lions were not going to let their own demons get the better of them as they wished Willem Alberts a 40th birthday gift with the victory.

It was started early on as they absorbed early Cardiff pressure to turn it around and score after pounding at the line with Ruan Venter first going short and then placing the ball over the line.

Their second try was a magical moment that they seized against the run of play. After having won a penalty, while players were walking back, quick action by captain Marius Louw led to the try.

Louw booted the ball downfield, to see a flying Quan Horn collect and score on the occasion of his 50th cap.

Leading 14-0 the Lions squandered a few chances, with Cardiff’s only contribution being a penalty to Thinus de Beer.

But two Sanele Nohamba penalties on each side of halftime took them to 20-3 up, and they looked set to record an easy win.

Cardiff, however, had other ideas, as they slowly clawed their way back.

Another De Beer penalty, plus a try to Corey Domachowski from close range got them to double figures. And on the hour, another De Beer penalty cut the lead to seven, causing a number of jitters in the Lions camp.

But then the bench arrived, and Tshituka seized the moment.

And gave the Lions a lifeline that they need to use in the final two weeks.


Emirates Lions - tries: Ruan Venter, Quan Horn, Emmanuel Tshituka (2). Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (2), Gianni Lombaard (2). Penalties: Nohamba (2).

Cardiff Rugby - try: Corey Domachowski. Conversion: Thinus de Beer. Penalties: De Beer (2)