The 24-year-old Paarl Boys High School star came off the bench in the final few minutes of last week’s 31-15 loss to the Bulls at Ellis Park, but he now has a welcome opportunity to demonstrate his class in the No. 10 shirt against Swansea.
Lombard is replacing Springbok prospect Jordan Hendrikse, whose two missed goal-kicks against the Bulls may have contributed to his demotion to the bench for this weekend’s man.
On the other hand, there is no debate about Lombard’s offensive prowess. His career has been hindered by a number of significant injuries; he spent a year in Japan with the NTT Red Hurricanes to regain his footing. However, he possesses the speed and skill to assist the Lions in penetrating the Ospreys’ defense.
Gareth Anscombe, a seasoned Wales Test pivot, will be Lombard’s opponent. It won’t be an easy trip.
Van Rooyen made a total of five alterations to his starting lineup for the match against the Ospreys.
Zander du Plessis replaces Henco van Wyk at outside centre, Sanele Nohamba replaces Morne van den Berg at scrumhalf, Emmanuel Tshituka replaces Ruhan Straeuli at blindside wing, and Ruben Schoeman returns to the No. 4 jersey ahead of Ruan Venter.
Du Plessis produced a couple of powerful runs when he entered the game against the Bulls in the second half, and he will try to make an impact against Welsh internationals Owen Watkin and George North.
Nohamba injected some vigor into the Lions’ defense when he replaced Van den Berg last weekend, and he’ll be praying that the forecasted rain keeps away from Swansea on Saturday.
Van Rooyen will rely on Tshituka’s work ethic and physicality to provide bite to the loose trio, where Jaco Kriel and Willem Alberts have once again been overlooked.
The 26-year-old second rower, along with captain Reinhard Nothnagel, will have to play the game of his life to limit the Ospreys’ two sturdy locks, Adam Beard and Alun Wyn Jones, in the lineouts and tight-loose.
The Lions’ bench appears formidable, with Venter, Van den Berg, Hendrikse, and Sango Xamlashe all capable of making a huge contribution in the second half.
15 Andries Coetzee 14 Edwill van der Merwe 13 Zander du Plessis 12 Marius Louw 11 Quan Horn 10 Gianni Lombard 9 Sanele Nohamba 8 Francke Horn 7 Emmanuel Tshituka 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain) 4 Ruben Schoeman 3 Ruan Dreyer 2 PJ Botha 1 Sti Sithole
Bench: 16 Jaco Visagie 17 JP Smith 18 Ruan Smith 19 Pieter Jansen van Vuren 20 Ruan Venter 21 Morne van den Berg 22 Jordan Hendrikse 23 Sango Xamlashe