Gillham headlines WA stars in South African Rhinos side

Credit:ZLargeMedia

Former West Coast Pirates and Willagee Bears forward Shane Gillham says it’s an honour to be selected to represent his country after being named in the South Africa Rhinos’ 21-man squad to face Malta this weekend.

“It’s definitely a big privilege to be able to represent South Africa. When I played my first test I was speechless,” he said.

Gillham, who currently plays for the Tweed Head Seagulls in the Intrust Premiership, headlines a list of six WA-connected players named to the squad who will travel to Sydney next weekend.

The 22-year-old will play alongside South Perth duo Tyler Thomas and Willem Boshoff, Rockingham utility Will Smith, former Joondalup junior Jean-Charl Smith and Johann Louw.

With South Africa an outside chance of qualifying for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, Gillham says a win against Malta will be a step in the right direction for the sport.

“If we want to be a real chance of qualifying for this World Cup in 2021 we need to be taking on the better teams and testing ourself,” he said.

The former Gold Coast Titans U20’s product is under no illusion that the Maltese will be any pushovers, however.

“They’ve got a good footy side so it’s definitely going to be a test for us,” he said.

With South Africa being a predominantly rugby union-focussed nation, Gillham admits league faces multiple challenges to becoming relevant.

“At the moment they don’t actually recognise rugby league as a sport by the government,” he said.

“It’s really hard to get players over. But slowly players are finding out about league, liking it and sticking with it.”

Qualification to the World Cup would go a long way in putting league on the map.

“We need to qualify, that’s the only way it’s going to take off,” Gillham said.

The squad will be trimmed down to 17 before the team travels to Sydney later in the week.