Lions’ Lombard must just be Gianni against URC leaders Glasgow

Gianni Lombard is expected to be on the bench when the Lions face the Glasgow Warriors in a round 17 URC clash at Ellis Park tomorrow. Photo: BackpagePix

Gianni Lombard is expected to be on the bench when the Lions face the Glasgow Warriors in a round 17 URC clash at Ellis Park tomorrow. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 17, 2024


One suspects that Gianni Lombard’s PlayStation has worked overtime this season, as more often than not, he has been confined to the sidelines, watching the travails of the Lions from the bleachers.

So, while his thumbs are in rude health, it surely has been a frustrating few months for the 26-year-old as he has been beset by injury and a lack of game time, and has had limited opportunities to apply his talents on the field.

In 2019 and 2022, it was the knees that conspired against Lombard, and this time around, it has been a worrisome hamstring that has kept him out of action.

It has seen the former Baby Bok play only six matches across all competitions during this campaign to compile a disappointing 105 minutes of play. The season before, for reference, he racked up 979 minutes more.

“This is rugby,” Lombard mused this week when assessing his mental and physical battles this season. “You have ups and downs, but if you stick to it and believe in yourself, you can come out on top.

“I’ve been there before, and I know what it takes.

“I know that I can’t get negative. I have to look at the bigger picture. I’ve come back and whenever the team needs me, I have to be ready.”

Lombard will play his third consecutive match tomorrow, when the Lions host the Glasgow Warriors in a must-win United Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park (4.05pm kick-off).

He was in the match 23 in the Joburgers’ win over Cardiff last week, as he was in their loss to Munster before that.

He will most likely remain on the bench for tomorrow’s match, supporting Sanele Nohamba at flyhalf, or coming on at fullback to replace Quan Horn.

His last starting berth was in January when he pulled on the No 10 jumper in a disappointing loss to the Ospreys in a Challenge Cup game.

Nohamba and Jordan Hendrikse have been the preferred options at pivot, while Horn is the undisputed No 15 of the Lions.

They will once again be in the mix against Glasgow, with the possibility that Hendrikse will start alongside Nohamba at inside centre.

Regardless of what number he wears on his back tomorrow, Lombard will have to be at his best when he does make an appearance as the Warriors are enjoying a rip-roaring season under South African coach Franco Smith.

They are top of the URC standings after winning 12 games and losing four.

The Lions, meanwhile, are 10th on 44 points, 16 behind the visitors and cognisant of the fact that only victory this weekend will keep their play-off hopes alive.

As Lombard pointed out: “For the Lions to make the top eight, it’s going to take a squad effort.”

With that in mind, Lombard was quite frank when assessing his own form and development.

“Talent can only take you so far,” he said.

“I have to put in the hard yards with my kicking game. I can always improve in being an attacking player and in defence.

“When you are injured, you think about those things a lot. That is where I grew a lot in my awareness of the game.

“Going forward, I must just believe in myself and my talent. I mustn’t put too much pressure on myself. I must put the past in the past and just be Gianni.”