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VIDEO: Lions playmaker ready for big comeback

VIDEO: Gianni Lombard has been ready to help the Lions make it into the Top Eight of the Challenge Cup since his injury in January and his time is now to help out his team.

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The 26-year-old flyhalf was originally earmarked as Elton Jantjies’ anointed successor but since making his senior debut for the Lions in 2019, has been injury-riddled with one hamstring and knee injury after another.

He finally made his return to the playing field in January this year against Ospreys at Ellis Park but got injured again.

He will have his first start since then against Glasgow Warriors in the United Rugby Championship at Ellis Park this weekend having come off the bench against Cardiff and Munster in the last two rounds.

A fit and positive-looking Lombard spoke to media at training on Wednesday, but only after he finished his kicking session with Morne Steyn, the team’s kicking consultant after all the other players had already left the stadium.

What has kept him positive after so many years of struggle with injuries?

“For the Lions to make Top Eight,” he said without a second thought.

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“I knew it was going to be a squad effort. I can’t just be negative and let all the boys do it.

“It’s going to take a squad effort so when they need me, I have to be ready.

“You can’t get negative, I have to look at the bigger picture. Whenever the team needs me, I have to be ready when the time comes, and it’s going to be this weekend.

“That motivated me. If the opportunity comes I have to be ready. I just have to have patience and belief in myself.”

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Lombard was hamstrung by a medial collateral ligament injury in 2019 and an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in 2022.

That prompted the young flyhalf to head Eastward in a less demanding environment to regain full fitness under his previous coach Johan Ackermann at the Red Hurricanes.

He returned to his home at Ellis Park late in 2022.

Despite all the setbacks, Lombard remains focused on his goals.

“This is rugby. You have ups and downs but if you stick to it, believe in yourself, and stick to the process, you will come out on top.

“My last game was in January against Ospreys and since then I haven’t played. Unfortunately, just after that, I tore a hamstring again. But it comes with the territory,” he said firmly.

“I am healthy and excited to be playing again.”

With Jordan Hendrikse on his way to the Sharks the Lions’ options at flyhalf are Sanele Nohamba and Kade Wolhuter, who is on loan from the Stormers.

With strong performances in their next few outings, Lombard can cement his position and hopefully showcase some of the talent he exhibited as a youngster when he was touted as one of South African rugby’s most gifted young playmakers.

Although he played fullback for the majority of his career prior to joining the Lions, Swys de Bruin likened him to Steven Larkham.

When asked which he prefers, flyhalf of fullback, the answer came easy: “No. 10. Closer to the ball, making decisions, controlling the team, managing the team. But I can do both.”

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