The Lions’ spotty season was dealt another cruel blow on Monday. It was revealed that utility back Gianni Lombard will undergo surgery for a knee injury.
Lombard, 22, ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee late in the team’s 25-30 loss to the Bulls at Ellis Park this past weekend. The talented young player, who started at fullback against the Bulls, suffered a similar season-ending injury to his left leg last year.
“He is consulting a specialist this week to discuss his surgery,” a statement from the Lions said – adding he will be sidelined for around nine months.
It was the Lions’ third heartbreaking loss this season, having earned losing bonus points in three matches – going down 16-19 to the Sharks, 17-23 to the Stormers and 25-30 to the Bulls.
Their round three encounter with the Cheetahs was cancelled and declared a draw after the massive COVID-19 scare at Ellis Park, while they beat Griquas 61-31 in Round Four.
They complete their Super Rugby Unlocked fixtures when they host the Pumas at Ellis Park this coming Saturday.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen praised his young team’s fighting character in a season of “close losses” against the tournament’s big guns.
“I think there were one or two moments where our decision making wasn’t ideal,” Van Rooyen said. “The positive is we can fix it”
“The negative is it might be once or twice that it’s recurring. I think the closer we can get to an 80-minute game, the sooner [these tight] results will go our way.
“There are 10 to 15 minutes that we lose momentum, or we lose a bit of confidence and that has cost us.”
Captain Elton Jantjies also spoke about the growth his young team has shown in the past five weeks.
“There were just some soft moments,” Jantjies said. “It’s good that we actually had this game.
“There is going to be a lot to learn and hopefully we learn that we are good enough and just keep on believing in what we’re doing.
“We are busy with the process. I really feel we can improve on those soft moments.
“What really cost us is our discipline.
“The boys were right up there in terms of physically, but a few mental lapses that we went through that actually cost this game.”
He said the lack of experience is not an excuse.
“It is something that we can fix quickly. Those maul penalties are in our control. Off-side penalties are in our control.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now