Sky Super Rugby Transtasman: Ex-All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush returns for Western Force against former team Hurricanes

In the twilight of his career, Jeremy Thrush knows his role well.

The former All Blacks lock and lineout general for the Western Force has flourished as an enforcer since joining the Perth club in 2020, with the 36-year-old bringing some colour to proceedings.

It was on display of the opening round of Super Rugby Transtasman in the Force’s one-point loss to the Chiefs, as Thrush made his presence felt both on and off the ball.

“I did find it pretty fun to try to ruffle a few feathers of Kiwi boys back home,” he said after the game.

“All I’ve got left in me really now is to be a bit niggly and piss a few people off.”

The former Hurricanes stalwart will look to do that against the club he played more than 100 games for this weekend, when the Force and Hurricanes meet in Napier on Friday night.

Thrush was a late scratching from the team sheet for the Force’s second-round loss to the Highlanders due to injury, but has been named to start again this week.

A talisman for the Force, Thrush has made himself a leader in the group, particularly during the Transtasman competition. For many of the younger players in the side, the competition is their first taste of what it’s like to play against the New Zealand clubs, and Thrush told Gold AM’s Brian Kelly he was enjoying the ride.

“Talking to a couple of them who haven’t had any experience playing Kiwi teams before, the intensity is still really high in Aussie when Aussie teams play each other, but I think the speed of the game, the execution and maybe a bit more pressure at the ruck we’ve noticed compared to playing the Aussie teams are probably the big differences,” Thrush said.

“We’ve got a loose forward/lock and at halftime against the Chiefs, we came in and I sat next to him in the changing room. As we were getting ourselves ready to go again, he was saying how much fun it is to play the Kiwi teams.

“We’re definitely not shy and not shying away from the challenges of playing them, I just think it’s about getting that experience and exposure to them that, I can only speak for the Force, will make us better in the long run.

“The boys are really enjoying playing against the Kiwi teams. I was saying to the Kiwi boys after the first two games, it’s just refreshing to be able to preview and review different teams aside from the Aussies all the time.”

Thrush’s comments are similar to many made surrounding the benefits of the competition for the Australian teams, despite New Zealand teams winning all 10 matches of the opening two rounds with the Force, who have lost by one and 10-point margins, the pick of the Australian contingent.

Speaking after the Crusaders’ 63-28 win over the Reds last weekend, Reds coach Brad Thorn said it was necessary for the Australian teams to take on the Kiwi teams if they wanted to get better.

“You get a punch in the face, but you sit in the locker room afterwards and think, ‘that’s it, that’s where we want to be’,” Thorn said.

“We need to play these guys; we want to play them and we want to win.”

Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Orbyn Leger, Luke Campbell, Gareth Evans, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia.

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, James Blackwell, Ardie Savea, Cam Roigard, Billy Proctor, Vince Aso.

Western Force: Rob Kearney, Toni Pulu, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin, Jordan Olowofela, Domingo Miotti, Tomas Cubelli, Tim Anstee, Kane Koteka, Fergus Lee-Warner, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Andrew Ready, Tom Robertson.

Reserves: Feleti Kaitu’u, Angus Wagner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Jack McGregor, Tevita Kuridrani.

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