The striking red, white, black and gold have not always been the Lion's designated colours.

Originally, Transvaal wore dark blue and white jerseys, blue shorts and blue-and-white socks. We're not entirely sure when the colour change occurred. However, it is believed that beating a touring British Isles team in 1903 may have been the defining moment to switch to red and white, with black and gold added subsequently.


The proud heritage and history of the Golden Lions Rugby Union stretches back to 1889, celebrating its 130th  birthday this year

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The GLRU competes in the Currie Cup under the sponsorship name of Xerox Golden Lions.

It also competes in the Super Rugby under the sponsorship name of Emirates Lions.


  • Super 10 (won) 1993
  • Currie Cup (11 wins) 1922, 1939, 1950, 1952, 1971 (shared), 1972, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2011, 2015.
  • Lion Cup (5 wins) 1986, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994
  • Vodacom Cup (5 wins) 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2013

A Historical Timeline of the Golden Lions Rugby Union


  • The Transvaal Rugby Union was founded making it the 4th oldest rugby union in South Africa


Saturday, 31 August 1889

  • Transvaal's first rugby match was played against Griquas in Kimberley



  • TRFU entered negotiations with JD Ellis (after whom Ellis Park was named) from the Johannesburg City Council to acquire 13 acres of land in Doornfontein
  • Building of Ellis Park Stadium commenced



  • First home game played at Ellis Park Stadium (Previously all home fixtures were played at Wanderers)



  • Ellis Park Stadium upgraded to a capacity of 62,500
  • During this time matches were once again played at the Wanderers


25 November 1992

  • Match vs touring Italian XV was the last game to be played as Transvaal



  • Union name changed from Transvaal to the Lions
  • Won Super 10 with a 20-17 win in Johannesburg over Auckland, New Zealand making the union the first South African team to win a trans-national title
  • Won Currie Cup 21-15 over Natal in Durban



  • Lions beat Orange Free State by 56-35 in Bloemfontein to win Currie Cup



  • Transvaal reached Super 10 final but lost to the Australian Queensland



  • Union name changed from Lions to the Golden Lions



  • Lions won Currie Cup beating the Sharks 32-9 in Durban


17 May 2006

  • Eugene Eloff appointed as coach of the Lions, replacing Frans Ludeke, who moved to the Bulls


15 January 2007

  • Andy Turner resigned as Lions CEO


3 September 2007

  • Manie Reyneke replaced Andy Turner as Lions CEO


4 February 2008

  • Auto & General announced a three-year sponsorship deal worth R30m with the Lions


3 July 2008

  • Coca-Cola entered a four and a half year sponsorship deal (rumoured to be worth R45m) giving them naming rights for Ellis Park


25 March 2009

  • Forwards coach Leon Boshoff accused of making racial remarks. Although he was found not guilty in a hearing, he was still relieved from his contract with the Lions


May 27 2009

  • Eugene Eloff asked to step down as coach
  • Hans Coetzee appointed caretaker coach in his place


10 June 2009

  • President Jannie Ferreira and Vice-President Manie Reyneke stepped down after facing a pressure group consisting of former players and all 21 clubs
  • Reyneke stayed on as CEO of the Lions


End October 2009

  • Lions elected Kevin de Klerk as new President
  • Dick Muir appointed as coach


17 May 2010

  • Dick Muir axed as Lions coach
  • John Mitchell named as new Lions coach


20 January 2011

  • MTN named as new sponsor for the 2011 to 2013 seasons


29 October 2011

  • Lions won Currie cup for the first time since 1999, beating the Sharks 42-16 at Ellis Park
  • CEO Manie Reyneke left union to join Stadium Management SA


10 February 2012

  • Redefine Properties named sponsor for the 2012 to 2014 seasons


June 2012

  • Coach John Mitchell suspended after player complaints
  • Johan Ackermann temporarily appointed new coach


November 2012

  • John Mitchell's job changed to a consultancy role
  • Johan Ackermann named new head coach


16 August 2012

  • Saru general council voted Lions out of Super Rugby with a majority of 23-6, only the Bulls and Sharks unions supported the Lions


5 December 2012

  • Lions announced Manie Booysen as new CEO starting January 2013


August 2013

  • Lions won their place in 2014 Super Rugby


1 June 2014

  • Rudolf Straeuli took over as the new Lions CEO


11 December 2014

  • Emirates Airlines announced as new title sponsor from 2015 to 2019, a deal believed to be worth just over R150m
  • Ellis Park renamed as Emirates Airline Park


2015 Currie Cup season

  • An unbeaten Lions team won the Currie Cup for the first time in nine years


2016 Super Rugby season

  • Lions won 11 games in the regular season, plus the quarter-final and semi-final to notch up 13 wins for the season - a new record for the franchise
  • Lions played their first ever Super Rugby final but lost 3-20 to the Hurricanes in Wellington, New Zealand


2017 Super Rugby season

  • Lions won 14 games in the regular season and the quarter-final and semi-final for 16 wins, breaking their previous franchise record
  • Super Rugby final: Lions lost 17-25 to the Crusaders


August 2017

  • Johan Ackermann resigned as coach to join Gloucester Rugby in England
  • Swys de Bruin (Ackermannís right hand man) appointed as new Golden Lions/Emirates Lions head coach


Giving back to the community

A little good goes a long way – we are committed to changing the future of South Africans

Imagine a rugby game without supporters? Who would jeer at the ref when a questionable decision is made, or shout with joy when a try is scored? There would be no unified "ouch" when a bone-crunching tackle flattens the opposition, no "Shosholoza" to uplift the spirit of an exhausted team coming from behind.

You make it possible for our Union to do what we love. And in return, we aim to bring a little light to those in need. It's why we support the communities of South Africa.


The CSI projects we are involved with aim to improve the lives of the vulnerable and poorer communities of South Africa. A few of these projects are as follows.

  • Els for Autism Foundation

Established in 2009 in Braamfontein, the Ernie Els Centre for Autism aims to raise awareness for Autism within South Africa. It also assists low-income families with receiving free intervention, and provides invaluable advice and guidance to parents and caregivers.

  • Water Shortage South Africa

A healthy community starts with access to clean drinking water. And so, during the drought of 2016, the Union joined forces with Water Shortage South Africa to donate 20,000 litres of water to the community of Winburg in the Free State. Thanks to our dedicated Lions supporters who made this donation possible.

  • Emirates Lions and LeadSA

Former President Nelson Mandela said that sport has the power to change the world. It's why, together with LeadSA, we took a stand against racism. In our commitment to unify all, we have a no-tolerance attitude towards all aspects of hatred and racism.

  • Partnering with Dlala Nje

The Dlala Nje community centre in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, is an engaging, confidence-building environment for children in this community with little to limited access to education, culture or just a safe place to play. The learning centre provides free computer- and internet access and homework facilitation while classes in art, dance and music awaken creative passions and nurture budding artistic talents.