Hollenbach far from his swansong
Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg - To say Lions centre Alwyn Hollenbach’s
career has been plagued with injuries would be a major understatement as he
only has 23 Super Rugby caps to show for his years of service to the game.
Now in his fifth year in Johannesburg since his move
from the Free State, Hollenbach believes he has finally turned a corner and is
ready to repay the Lions for the continuous faith they have shown in him.
“The last couple of months I’ve changed my mindset
about my injuries and I’ve focused on my abilities, strength and fitness,”
Hollenbach said ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Brumbies.
“You can have all the money you want but it cannot
replace the feeling when you walk onto the field with your team-mates.”
Hollenbach made his return to the starting XV for the
Lions in last week’s tussle with the Highlanders where his experience and calm
confidence was evident in the crucial victory.
His strong performance created a selection quandary
for Lions coach Johan Ackermann as he had to shift regular centre Lionel Mapoe
to the wing in his return from injury.
Hollies, as he is affectionately known by his
team-mates, had been quite philosophical about his return which no doubt had
been fuelled by the time he had spent on the sidelines.
“Just being back is phenomenal and to be playing
should not be taken for granted,” Hollenbach said.
“Every weekend is an opportunity to play and you never
know if it could be your last game so I am just giving it a go.”
With a total of four operations - two to his knees,
one to the foot and shoulder - keeping him off the field, Hollenbach said he
was grateful to the Lions for being patient with him.
“There are amazing structures at the Lions and I have
to give thanks to management for giving me the opportunity,” he said.
“I couldn’t make the team because the guys were
playing quite well and I must take my hat off to coach Russell Winter and
Herkie Kruger (Vodacom Cup coaches) for their belief in me.
“They said ‘you are not ending your career, you are
just starting’ and that stuck with me and after that I just kept going.”
The midfield combination of Hollenbach and rising star
Harold Vorster will be tested on Saturday as they come up against Wallaby
centres Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani.
Hollenbach said he could not wait for the challenge
and he would bring a fair amount of physicality to the match.
“I love the physicality of the game and I am definitely
gonna get out there and get the first one in (tackle) and then just keep
going,” he said.
Speaking of his partnership with Vorster, Hollenbach
believed the 21-year-old had higher honours written in his stars.
“Harold is brilliant and mark my words he is going to
be a Springbok if not in a couple of months then in a year or so,” Hollenbach
“His skills are improving and I am glad to next to him
and we have a good combination going.”