Former All Black proves a Thorn on his side
ROOKIE lock Izack Rodda has paid tribute to the infuence ex-All Blacks hardman Brad Thorn in teaching him the brutal basics of forward play and helping the youngster win a starting role for the Wallabies.
Rodda, 21, will make his run-on debut for Australia on Sunday morning against the Springboks in Bloemfontein, having previously played just two Tests off the bench.
The 120kg, 2.02m lock only debuted for Queensland this season, too, and Rodda admitted he even was surprised at the pace with which he'd been promoted up into the Wallabies' squad this year - let alone winning a starting spot.
"It was a massive surprise since the first round (of Super Rugby)," Rodda said.
"I wasn't even expecting to get my debut against the Sharks in round one and it all just sort of went from there and I've just been so stoked about how I've been going and just loving every minute of it."
Rodda and fellow Wallaby rookie Lukhan Tui have had a fair mentor showing them the ropes at Queensland as far as second-row play is concerned.
World Cup-winning dual international Thorn has been on staff at the QRU for the last two years, running the Reds under 20s and assisting as a forwards coach of the Super Rugby, too.
He is thought of so highly in Queensland, Thorn is being lined up to become head coach for next year.
"I've had a lot to do with him through the season," Rodda said.
"He's been a coach at the Reds and he's just a great influence, very helpful because he's one of the best to play the position and he's just really knowledgable. It's just great to sink in all the knowledge off him."
The main message?
"Definitely physicality. He prides the game of physicality and especially as a second-rower, he believes and I believe as well, you've got to be real physical and dominant in your positon and just make your presence around the field," Rodda said.
Word at Ballymore is that Thorn-run weights sessions - aka throwing tin - are unrelenting.
"They are very tough gym sessions, very long, but very beneficial at the same time. I'm feeling a lot stronger from doing it," Rodda said.
"He's really strong about always improving. He says you should be at your peak by the end of the season, strength-wise and playing-wise. That's his motto."
If you're going to throw a young lock into battle with the Springboks pack, a Thorn-forged rookie is as good as you can hope for.
The Bloemfontein Test won't be a Test for shrinking violets, either, with the Boks stinging after their 57-0 loss to New Zealand.
"Obviously everyone knows they're going to come back strong and hard after that game," Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said.
"Retribution will be in the air, no doubt, and we just happen to be the next team in line.
We're going to have to prepare to work really, really hard for each other. It's pretty simple."
Cheika said the Wallabies wouldn't make the mistake of thinking the Springboks were down and out.
"I don't think South Africa have had many issues," he said.
"They had a bit of a hiccup last week but everyone was singing their praises before that. I've seen the footage, they've been going pretty good and I know how that New Zealand game can go against you. I've seen them in fine form this year.
"They've been unbeaten until that game, they had a draw with us on our own soil. I would say that, just like Allister says, you can't let that game define the team and I don't think it would because they've had some fine performances up until that game.
"And even in that game, if you watch it, there's still a lot of good things they produced. We're very aware that it's a totally new challenge and I think hard work for us is going to be the key."