Emirates Lions wing Ruan Combinck might just love something else more than he loves to score tries. He just loves seeing happy, healthy cattle grazing in green pastures and watch new calves enter the world. But he also deeply loves the Lions, his home since 2012, and that is why he has just put pen to paper for another two years with the Johannesburg based franchise.
Some afternoons after training he will just linger out on the plot in Alberton he shares with friends, one of them his team mate Harold Vorster, with his dogs Tanic and Mila and his cattle milling around him, smelling the chocolate wrapper in his hand.
“I absolutely adore the smells of farm life, the smell of horses and cattle and the wet earth,” he recalls.
Commies, as he is known amongst his teammates, grew up just around the corner from Nkandla, president Jacob Zumas’ homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, in Babanango where the fifth generation of Combrincks’ are still farming.
He started boarding school in grade 1 and later went on to finish his matric at Michaelhouse in the Natal midlands where he went to school with the Cronjé brothers Guy and Ross.
He not only excelled in sport but also drama in which he quickly figured out that he can better his marks in theory with sterling performances on stage, which he promptly managed to do. Combrinck is one of the in-form wings in the country at the moment and clearly knows how to navigate his way to the goal-line, even against tough Kiwi opposition.
“I once saw a sport phycologist who told me I should run like I stole some-one’s handbag and it is not just the lady, but also her husband and his buddies chasing me. I don’t think about that when I am at full-pace but it’s a damn good mindset to have,” he says with a grin.
Combrinck is one of those vibrant, energetic and positive people who doesn’t need a reason to get up in the morning.
“I have played a full 80 minutes for eleven games now. And when I asked our fitness trainer what I needed to do in our bye week, I was told to rest, that I have done enough. But to me it felt like we were just starting. I just love working hard, putting in the extra hours. “I always wait until everyone has left for the day before I start with my gym workout. I don’t train for anyone else, I train for me. Then there is no-one to impress,” he explains.
Combrinck is used to working hard for recognition, first at Maties and Western Province, where he never really got a decent opportunity, and then at the Lions when John Mitchell coached them when he joined to Jozi outfit back in 2012.
“I really enjoy my time here at the Lions. When I first arrived Mitch was the coach. He is a very smart coach with an All Black mindset. I played in three games for the Under 21’s when he called me up to train with the Currie Cup side. I trained with them that whole season without playing one game.”
Then Johan Ackermann, coach Ackers, took over. Butch James was the flyhalf – “one of the most clever rugby players I have ever encountered. I have tremendous respect for him. When he talks, you listen.”
He is a driven young man but refuses to get too involved with talk about higher selection. “Hashtag love the Lions,” he says with a smile. He is full of anecdotes, all relating mostly to farm-life but also the special bond the Lions players share. “We are a band of brothers who will do anything for each other. We stood by this union when we were kicked out of Super Rugby because we all wanted to be here. And that is why I want to stay for another two years.” His conversation is littered with clever sayings, but it comes naturally and is clearly part of his make-up as a professional player.
They say he is an obvious choice for the Green and Gold this year. They say he is one of the top wings at the moment. Combrinck doesn’t care what they say. He just motivates himself every week to be the best he can be. “Never aim to just be involved, aim to be the best,” he says. This Tweet by him a few weeks ago sums it up quite well: “When you play and have fun doing it, you feel really good. When you feel good, you perform well. It’s Basic & Simple. #GameTime #LionsPride”
Lions Rugby: 38 matches, 9 tries, 1 conversion, 2 penalties, 53 points