Jonathan Thomas will join prop Paul James as the only two players to have made 150 appearances for the Ospreys when he takes to the Liberty Stadium turf to face Ulster on Sunday (KO 4.30pm).
The versatile 28-year old currently sits second in the all-time Ospreys appearance list on 149, with James well ahead on 168, and he is set to reach the 150 landmark having been named in the starting XV for the RaboDirect PRO12 clash between the two unbeaten teams.
The duo will be joined in the exclusive 150 club by a number of Ospreys shortly, with Sonny Parker close behind on 147, Adam Jones on 146, Andrew Bishop 145 and Duncan Jones on 141.
One of the Ospreys ‘Originals’ having come through the ranks at Swansea as a teenager, Thomas made his regional debut in November 2003 after returning from the Rugby World Cup, against Leinster at the Gnoll. Just two months later he captained the Ospreys in a Heineken Cup tie against Edinburgh, less than four weeks after his 21st birthday, to become the youngest ever Ospreys skipper – a record that still stands today.
He notched up the 50 in a 16-13 win over Glasgow at the Liberty Stadium in April 2006, with the century completed in a 68-8 record breaking romp against Benetton Treviso in a Heineken Cup fixture in December 2008, also at the Liberty.
Speaking about reaching the landmark, Thomas commented:
“It’s a very proud moment for me, to get to get 150. I’ve been with the region since 2003 and so far only Paul James has got to that landmark before me so yes, it’s something I can really be pleased about.
“When I made my debut I never imagined for one moment that I’d go on to make so many appearances for the Ospreys. There was a lot of uncertainty about the place back in 2003, we were a new organisation and there was a question mark over the viability of regional rugby and the Ospreys in particular. No one knew if it would work, how long we would last, so to see the region grow as it has as been fantastic.
“To see the success we’ve had so far, winning the league three times and winning the EDF at Twickenham, beating Australia, it’s great to see how far the region has come in such a short time. We are playing against teams with decades of history and tradition behind them, and we started from scratch just eight years ago. In a short space of time we’ve come a long way and are continuing to grow. Hopefully we can be a force for a long time to come.
“We’ve got ambition but I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can achieve as a region. We’ve got some great young players coming through, the balance of the squad is good and hopefully we can continue to be successful.”
Ospreys Forwards Coach, Jonathan Humphreys, paid tribute to Thomas, saying:
“JT is one of the original Ospreys and has been a key player for us on and off the field since our inception. It’s a fantastic achievement for him to have reached 150 appearances, particularly when you count in the number of games he would have missed through international duty over the years.
“He continues to be a strong, positive influence here, and having recently signed a new contract, will remain so for the foreseeable future which is excellent news for Ospreys Rugby.”
Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Hore, added:
“Jonathan is an individual who takes great pride in representing Ospreylia, he is passionate about the region and totally committed to the cause. It’s a fantastic achievement to have reached 150 regional appearances already, and having been a permanent feature at the region since he was only 20 years old, although it seems that he’s been around for ever he is still relatively young and has plenty more years of rugby left in him.
“He is exactly the kind of driven, focussed individual that we want at the Ospreys, and I’ve no doubt that he will continue to represent the region with great success for many years to come.”
Having been one of the young guns at the region during the early years, Thomas acknowledges that the wheel has turned full circle and with 67 Wales caps also to his credit he is now one of the most experienced players in the squad.
“I was called a veteran the other day and that doesn’t seem quite right” he laughed.
“It doesn’t really seem appropriate, I still feel like a youngster myself. I suppose that’s the natural process of a team, and I am one of the older guys here. The fact we are talking about my 150th appearance says it all. It means I’ve got to act a bit more sensibly I suppose.
“It’s great to be able to play a part and maybe provide some guidance to the younger players. I love pulling on the Ospreys jersey, I’ve been here since the start and I really feel a part of the place and everything that goes on here. I’m proud to serve the region and want to be successful for the fans over the next few years."