Durban - Pat Lambie started the year off full of cheer, with a lady on his arm, a spring in his step, and the promise of regular game-time in his favourite channel.
But halfway through the year, that same arm is in rehabilitation and his lady has seen more of her new husband than she could have bargained for, all thanks to a freak bicep injury against the Bulls in March.
“I think my wife has had just about enough of me now,” Lambie sighed this week.
Lambie’s pain of missing out on game-time would have been felt a little keener on Saturday, as he watched on from the sidelines, as his home stadium hosted the Boks’ first Test of the season.
“There’s never a good time to be injured, and it’s never nice missing out on games for the Sharks or the Springboks,” he explained.
The uncommon nature of his setback meant that the Sharks pivot couldn’t even while away the days with what sportsmen usually get up to when they have time on their hands.
“It has been frustrating sitting out, and also not being able to play golf or even surf for a few months on top of that. The nice thing is that there have been improvements with rehab exercises almost every day,” he said cheerfully.
He even had time to go to his alma mater, for the school’s traditional derby against Hilton. Unsurprisingly, the bashful Lambie was the centre of attention, from fans both young and old.
“That was a special day. I loved being back at Michaelhouse for the big derby. I’ve also learnt to enjoy spending time with fans, taking pictures or giving an autograph. It’s humbling to be able to make a little guy’s day just by giving him a bit of your time,” he smiled.
Lambie was expected to be out for the rest of the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign, but he has made sufficient progress to give Jake White hope that he may make a welcome return to action in time for the playoffs.
In his absence, then deputising Fred Zeilinga’s subsequent hamstring injury, White has leaned heavily on Frans Steyn at flyhalf, even with the Bok star carrying a niggling knee injury. The stricken Lambie has been a keen observer, and has been impressed by the performances of his teammates, even through adversity on tour.
“It’s been fantastic to see the Sharks doing so well this year, especially on tour. It’s a bit upsetting missing out on all those memories, and I have tried to stay involved as much as possible,” he explained.
The upshot for Lambie, like so many South African players who suffer long-term injuries, is that the rehabilitation process allows them to take a complete break from the game and its demands, both physical and mental.
“There are definitely positives that come with a long lay-off like this. I think it’s important to realise that,” he admitted.
“It has given me a chance to get stuck into gym, and almost have a full, three-month pre-season. Hopefully that goes a long way to keeping me fit in the future. Without the injury, I’m not sure I would have had a chance like this. It does also mean a mental break from the game,” he added.
But, for all the benefits of an unexpected lay-off, the pivot knows where he would rather be, admitting that the yearning to be out on the field has been swelling up over the past few months.
The relentless, lonely sessions of rehab at the Shark Tank, in the morning and afternoon, have been worthwhile, though. Lambie can now see light at the end of the tunnel.
The Sharks, getting to the business end of a campaign of many highs and some unexpected lows, will be heartened by news that their midfield maestro may be back in time for the final stretch of the Super Rugby season.
“My arm is feeling really good. We are hoping to be back sometime in July,” Lambie revealed.
“We are doing everything we can to make that happen. But having said that, I will only play once I am 100 percent recovered,” he warned.