South Perth’s Isaac Thomas is relishing being around an international rugby league set-up as the South African Rhinos prepare to tackle Malta in Sydney this weekend.
Thomas, who is Assistant to Head Coach John Wilson, says he is impressed with the group’s attitude heading into Sunday’s clash.
“It’s really exciting because it’s such a fresh group of young guys. They’re very proud South Africans so just to be able to be with them whilst they’re experiencing this excitement (is great),” he said.
The Rhinos team has a strong West Australian flavour to it, with Thomas joined by fellow South Perth first graders Tyler Thomas and Willem Boshoff, Rockingham Sharks’ Will Smith, former Joondalup Giants junior Jean-Charl Smith, former Willagee Bears forward Shane Gillham and Johann Louw.
Thomas expects the WA contingent to make an impact and singled out 17-year-old Smith as one to watch.
“Our WA boys are really going to step up. People are often surprised at how good the West Australian boys are and what they represent,” he said.
“Athletically, (Will’s) not going to stand out as the young fella. He’s got a mature head on his shoulders too. He’s a quiet individual, but he’ll do his job as a centre and that’s all we can really ask is that everyone does their job.”
South Africa, ranked 35th in the world, go into this test match with Malta as underdogs, but Thomas believes his side will take the game to their higher-ranked opponents.
“Everybody here, all of the players and coaches are shocked with how the team is looking. From speaking to John who’s toured with the South African team before, he’s never had a team this skilled and enthusiastic,” he said.
“Malta are a very, very strong unit and they play a lot of tests so have had a lot of opportunities to come together as a group, but I actually think they’re going to get a real shock on Sunday.”
The game kicks off at 3pm AEST on Sunday (1pm WST) at St Mary’s Stadium in Sydney.