The Lions celebrated their return to Super Rugby after a year in the wilderness with one of their best seasons ever. In addition to finishing fourth in the South African conference, the men from Johannesburg also won seven games – the same number as the Stormers and Bulls, who both have resources that far outstrip a team that has been a perennial poor relation. Well, we say ‘has’ – this summer the Lions announced a partnership with Emirates Airlines that includes title, shirt and stadium naming rights, and will allow the Emirates Lions to compete on more level terms with their more high-profile rivals.
A new era at Ellis Park, sorry, ‘Emirates Airlines Park’ then, and with it two new shirts from Canterbury, both of which proudly display the franchise’s game-changing new sponsor on the front.
Before we continue, it’s worth observing that these shirts aren’t supplied by Canterbury in the way that most of the other teams that we review here. These shirts are supplied by Canterbury Teamwear – basically they’re produced to order like any semi-pro or even amateur club would. The Lions pick a design template from Canterbury’s catalogue, and the company’s South African arm then produces the shirt with all the relevant sponsors and badges, and sends them to the club.
So next time you criticise Canterbury for ‘recycling an old template’ with shirts such as these, try to remember that the client picks the template, and they obviously like it. That’s certainly the case with the Lions, who obviously like this 2007-era template, as it’s pretty much identical to what they used last year. It’s a design that looks much better with the more modern ‘Loop 21’ collar in use here. It still does look a little dated, but if 2007 was a happy time for you (and if you’re a South African rugby fan, it probably was…) then maybe a bit of ’07 nostalgia is no bad thing,
Like last year, the Lions have opted for the slightly unusual sartorial choice on the back of the shirt, opting for a large white panel on the rear of the shirt for the numbers. Honestly, we weren’t keen on it last year, and we’re not keen here either. It just looks a bit tacky, in the way that off-the-peg catalogue kits can do sometimes – plain red would have been much better.
The alternate shirt is, at time of writing, more theoretical than anything else. The Lions haven’t actually taken delivery of the jerseys yet, so all we have to go on is this artist’s impression. What it appears to be though, is a perfectly nice, if slightly boring swap of red for black.
Round the back, we again have the large white panel, but we think it actually looks okay here – black and white work much better than red, white and black, and while it’s a little monochromatic, there’s nothing offensive about this shirt… like the home shirt it’s just a little dated, and just a little… eh…
Both of these shirts leave us a little cold then, and that’s perhaps because using a design template that’s eight years old as the basis for your brand new shirt is always going to produce a resounding ‘meh’ from keen shirt obsessives. If the money and profile brought in by the new Emirates deal is reflected by results and recruitment of the pitch however, we doubt the Lions will have to buy their kits off the peg for too much longer – here’s hoping for something a little more unique next year.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: An oldie, but a boringly goodie