Hungry Lion Emmanuel Tshituka wants to feast on Glasgow
Emmanuel Tshituka has stepped out of the shadow of older brother Vincent and into the vanguard of an Lions pack on the hunt for redemption when they host Franco Smith’s high-flying Glasgow Warriors this weekend.
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Tshituka brothers were schooled at Northcliff High in Johannesburg, came through the provincial youth ranks and burst onto the scene with a number of imposing performances in the Lions back row.
In his first full season as a senior professional, Emmanuel often dovetailed with Vincent in the Lions pack, but also proved to be a more than capable replacement when called off the bench to give his brother a breather.
However, with Vincent last year swapping the City of Gold to join the Sharks on Durban’s sunny sea shore, Emmanuel had to step up and prove he can power the pack sans his brother.
The 22-year-old has exceeded expectations this season, demonstrated by his two-try, BKT URC Player-of-the-Match performance against the Scarlets in December.
“I’m happy, but I’m not content,” said Emmanuel. “That’s a thing the coaches here drive: to never be content or complacent with your performance. You strive to get better each week. My goal is to come out each week, no matter how many minutes I get, and make the most of it and play as hard as I can for my teammates.”
More recently, ‘Manu’, as he is known to his teammates, stole the spotlight from his brother when the Emirates Lions hosted the Cell C Sharks in an all-South African BKT United Rugby Championship derby.
In a mouth-watering matchup, the Cell C Sharks claimed a bonus-point victory in what marked the first time the Tshituka brothers had faced each other in the professional arena.
That result has made Saturday’s clash against Glasgow Warriors a vital one for the Emirates Lions whose league top-eight prospects would be boosted with a home victory.
It won’t be an easy task as (Franco) Smith has taken the Warriors on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions in his first season in charge.
That streak has included successive wins over Scottish rivals Edinburgh to win the 1872 Cup, a home victory against the defending champion DHL Stormers and a hard-fought win at home to Irish playoff contenders Ulster.
Smith will be well aware of the threat posed by a desperate Emirates Lions outfit. Smith, a former Springbok player and coach of South Africa's Cheetahs, needs no introduction to how dangerous the Emirates Lions can be, especially when playing at home.
The Lions gave a good account of themselves last season in the one previous meeting between these two teams as Glasgow needed a 71st-minute penalty from Ross Thompson to seal a 13-9 home victory.
The Emirates Lions have a tough schedule of five remaining matches to end the regular season - including clashes against the Vodacom Bulls and Leinster – and they will need Tshituka to be at his most imposing to repel Smith’s Warriors and begin clawing their way back into BKT URC playoff contention.