Home Sport EXCLUSIVE: Emmanuel Tshituka beginning to roar after finding his feet as the...

EXCLUSIVE: Emmanuel Tshituka beginning to roar after finding his feet as the alpha Lion

Johannesburg — “Their parents can be immensely proud,” answered Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen with a chuckle.

The question, quite cheekily, was who he considers the better player between the Tshituka Brothers — Vincent or Emmanuel. Van Rooyen opted to remain diplomatic, and who can blame him after having coached both at the Lions with great success.

Secretly though, one could imagine that ‘Cash’ will be quite pleased that despite the departure of Vincent, his loose forwards — Emmanuel included — have shrugged off a potentially squad-altering departure, and continue to rock and roll full-steam ahead.

‘Manu’, as Emmanuel is called by his teammates, was superb last weekend for the Lions in their 32-15 dismissal of Scarlets, the younger Tshituka picking up the Man of the Match award after accumulating 80 metres in 13 carriers with three defenders beaten, a clean break and three turnovers.

In Durban, meanwhile, Vincent also had an industrious display for his new team, the Sharks, playing at lock in their scrappy but morale-boosting win over Ospreys at the weekend. It was a game that Emmanuel watched, the 22-year-old admitted, as it creates an important sounding board that both brothers use to develop their game.

“Obviously, we give each other a bit of tongue-in-cheek but there is always love,” Emmanuel said of their sibling rivalry.

“I watched his game, and afterwards I called him and gave him critique on what I saw or how he could have improved his game, certain things he could have done better; and it is vice versa.

“After my game (against Scarlets), he called me and he pointed out things that I should have done better. We always support each other. We are a very close-nit family. My victories are his, and his victories are mine.”

Emmanuel slotted in comfortably against Scarlets into the No 8 berth, vacated by the injured Francke Horn, and repaid that first start in the position with some barnstorming runs, physicality and guile.

Multi-positional changes are no issue for Emmanuel, however, as he has also played lock, along with his more numerous stints at the side the scrum.

Still, there could be concerns that such a move could hamper a player’s form, not that it seemed to bother Emmanuel. Moreover, Emmanuel will be expected to pack down at No 8 for the foreseeable future while Horn recuperates.

“It is always nice to get recognised for your performances but I still believe I can get a lot better,” Emmanuel said.

“It was my first, official start at No 8. Obviously, I have played there when Francke gets substituted. I really enjoyed it.

“I am comfortable anywhere in the loose trio, and I don’t mind playing No 4 as well.

“No 8 is probably one of the more fun positions to play.”

Van Rooyen hinted, earlier this week, that there might be some rotational change this weekend to his matchday 23. The Lions will then begin their journey in the Challenge Cup against the Dragons, who they beat a fortnight ago in the United Rugby Championship and who they face in the new tournament due to the now relegated Worcester Warriors.

Emmanuel might find himself a part of that strategy with a move into the second row, back to the side of the scrum, or onto the bench not outside of the realms of possibility.

The 33-25 victory against the Dragons last month was also somewhat scrappy, a fact that Emmanuel & Co are mindful of.

“When we played against the Dragons previously, they really disrupted our breakdown,” Emmanuel explained.

“I think defensively, we were a bit sluggish as well. Those are the sort of things we will work on.

“I think we will also be more dynamic, bring the backs more into the game. It was a more disorientated game we had against the Dragons the previous weekend and we want to improve on the things from the Scarlets game.

“We mustn’t be as predictable as we were when we played against them. Too many times we were just disjointed by having one-off runners. We must be more expansive.”

The Lions host the Dragons at Ellis Park at 12.45pm on Saturday. Van Rooyen will announce his team on Friday.


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