Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Sky is the limit for Gianni Lombard as he fights to get back to his best

“I am in a good space and enjoying expressing myself at the moment."

Lions flyhalf Gianni Lombard has enjoyed a stunning return to professional club rugby in South Africa, with some top performances in the United Rugby Championship (URC) so far this season.

Lombard missed close to two years of action due to two serious knee injuries, and has come back like he never left.

He had a brief, but successful stint in Japan, where he proved his fitness, and has backed it up with some top performances for the Lions over their opening five games in the URC.

“I have certainly enjoyed returning to the Lions after my stint in Japan. Playing again with some old faces and getting to know the new guys in the team has been good. It’s a blessing that I am injury free,” said Lombard.

“I am just grateful for the opportunity to be playing again and I am in a good space and enjoying expressing myself at the moment.

“I would be lying if I say it wasn’t difficult (dealing with the injuries), but I kept believing in my talent, worked hard on my rehab and had faith that I could play at the highest level again. That was what kept me going and drove me to keep on playing and improving as a rugby player.”

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Lombard’s impressive showings have even garnered interest by the national selectors, with rumours swirling that he is in the running for a Springbok call-up for their end-of-year-tour, although if he doesn’t crack the nod he is expected to be picked for the SA A side.

Despite how well he is currently playing, Lombard admits that he believes he is still not back to his best and can get better as the season progresses.

“I am still getting back into the groove. I am not at my best yet, but I am getting better every week. I haven’t reached my full potential yet so I am excited for the future,” said Lombard.

“I am happy with my form at the moment. There are some areas that I can improve and there is a lot I can still bring to the team.”

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The Lions’ most recent match was a loss against Irish powerhouse Ulster just over a week ago, and despite the result Lombard claims it was an important performance from the team, as they fought back valiantly before falling just short, proving they can mix it up with the best in the competition.

“Ulster was a disappointing loss for us because we felt like we had them in the first half. We gave the game to them with our own mistakes. The game was also a reality check for us as a team and union in that we can actually compete (against the best),” explained Lombard.

“We prepared well in pre-season and it’s all about starting to believe that we can compete and beat the best teams in this competition, which we are starting to do now.”

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