Rhodes: Lions have 'heart & passion'
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:36
I do miss having a bit more free reign on the park
Stormers lock Michael Rhodes is looking forward to facing up against his former Super Rugby team when the Lions visit Newlands on Saturday.
Rhodes played 21 games for the Lions in Super Rugby, before moving to the Stormers in 2013 when the Johannesburg-based side were relegated in favour of the Southern Kings, and says he is happy to see his former team doing well.
The Lions sit ninth on the Super Rugby standings with four wins from eight games, but were as high as fourth before losing their last two games against the Crusaders and the Sharks and Rhodes has warned that you underestimate the Lions at your peril.
"When I was playing there, we were also written off and we went on to win the Currie Cup [in] my first year there," Rhodes said.
"They're a bunch of guys who might not have the massive names but they have a lot of heart and a lot of passion and they play an attractive brand of rugby so as an ex-Lion I'm happy for them and they deserve to be where they are, they've played some good rugby and I'm looking forward to playing them on the weekend.
Having played for the Lions as recently as 2012, Rhodes knows a lot of the players well.
"There are actually quite a lot of them I played with there, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel actually about half of the team - so it's always nice to play against your old teammates and you know them a bit better and can say hello at the bottom of a ruck and have a good laugh after the game."
Rhodes readily admits that the Stormers were caught off-guard in the first meeting between the two sides, which the Lions won 34-10 at Ellis Park. Rhodes was on the bench in that game and knows his side needs to improve when facing them on Saturday.
"Before we knew it, Marnitz [Boshoff] had slotted a couple of drop-kicks and really put the pressure on us, so hopefully we can have a better start to this weekend's game.
"It was a definite shock and we want to improve on that this time around."
In recent years Rhodes has mainly played on the blindside flank, but this season he has been asked to fill in at lock for the Stormers because of injuries to Manuel Carizza, Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp and Rynhardt Elstadt.
In recent weeks he has been tasked with making the line-out call from the number five jersey as well - but it is a challenge that the former Michaelhouse student is relishing.
"It's been a steep learning curve, playing most of my rugby at seven and then if I had played [lock], I was playing at [number] four lock, so with the injures we've had I've shifted there and it's a postion that I'm trying to build on every week.
"It is a different role, I do miss having a bit more free reign on the park and getting my hands on the ball a bit more but I'm very happy to help out the team, we have a bit of a crisis at lock and I'm very happy to help out there," Rhodes said.
The Stormers have struggled with their lineout this season and while Rhodes admits that well the changes at lock and the injuries to hookers Siyabonga Ntubeni and Tiaan Liebenberg have had a detrimental effect on their set-piece, he says they are working hard to improve it.
"It's very difficult, you want the consistency in your team and realibility, and it's tough on our hookers as well. Deon Fourie [last] played hooker a year ago and he's been forced into hooker so it's tough all round. You've just got to do the best with what you've got.
"We realise it [the line-out] hasn't been up to par since the beginning of the season and we just have to build on what we do every week."
"We do our homework on the opposition every weekend and we try to work out what will work best and it came off better against the Waratahs - and we just want to keep building on that momentum."
Rhodes says despite the Lions missing Franco van der Merwe, the Lions line-out is well manned by the likes of Franco Mostert, Martin Muller and Warren Whiteley and will be a tough unit to counter.
"They've lost Franco [van der Merwe], and he's a great line-out jumper and tactician but they've got two relatively young guys there doing well for themselves and they've really put their hands up and we, by no means, think it will be an easy day at the set-phases, Rhodes added.
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