GERMAN INTERNATIONAL Jimmy Keinhorst feels he has finally arrived as a Super League player, but insists he won’t ever take his place in Leeds Rhinos’ side for granted.
The 26-year-old centre is now into his sixth season as a member of Rhinos’ first-team squad and has 62 senior appearances under his belt.
One of Betfred Super League’s more unusual success stories, Keinhorst played for German team Heidelberger RL and represented that nation in both codes as well as having a spell in rugby union with Otley.
Rhinos spotted him playing for Leeds Metropolitan University – alongside now-St Helens forward Alex Walmsley – and he made his debut in 2012.
The fourth game of his first team career was at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final defeat by Warrington Wolves.
He has also had stints with Hunslet and Wakefield Trinity, but has been a mainstay of Rhinos’ side for the past two seasons and featured off the bench in the 2015 Grand Final win over Wigan Warriors, when his pass created the crucial try for another union convert Josh Walters.
It has taken a while, but Keinhorst said he now feels an established part of Rhinos’ squad. Ahead of tonight’s visit of Salford Red Devils, he insisted: “I think the challenge for me is to keep that spot in the 17 week-in and week-out when everyone’s fit.
“I think that’s when the real test comes and you know your worth.
“I just have to keep things positive and build on each performance I am putting in.”
Versatility is a key part of Keinhorst’s armoury. A specialist centre, he has also filled in as a second-rower for the past two seasons.
“I don’t mind it,” he said of switching between roles. “I probably prefer playing centre, to be honest. I think that’s quite known now, but if I am needed to fill in in the back-row I am happy to do that as well.”
Keinhorst does not have the grounding in the game enjoyed by many other Super League players and admits he is still learning.
“I’ve been here for a few years, but the amount of Super League games I’ve played is not all that high,” he said.
“I’ve played a bit in the Championship on loan as well and I think I am learning the game, but I think most people are still learning quite a way into their career as well.
“Just being more comfortable from week to week on the pitch is the idea and I think I am starting to feel that a bit, so hopefully I can get a bit more of that with the more experience and game time I get.”
As well as playing for Germany, alongside his three older brothers, Keinhorst has represented England and Great Britain Students.
But asked if he has any thoughts about going on to claim a full England cap, he insisted: “Not at all.
“I think I just need to focus on what I am doing now with Leeds and take care of that and anything in the future will take care of itself.
“I will focus on the present really.”
Of his form this season so far, Keinhorst said: “Going off the last game, against Leigh, I was quite happy with my personal performance.
“It was good to get off the mark by scoring a try and I think defensively I was quite solid as well.
“There’s things to work on obviously, as there always is, but I was quite happy with how it went.”
Keinhorst’s try eight minutes before half-time nudged Rhinos into a six-point lead, but his tackle on Atelea Vea late on was just as crucial in securing Leeds’ first win of the season.
With Rhinos clinging to a three-point lead, Vea went for the line and was hauled down by Keinhorst, with winger Ryan Hall’s assistance.
Keinhorst said: “I think Hally did well to entice him inside. He helped me out as much as anything and I was just able to get my body on him and stop the pass.
“It was good, obviously, to stop that and to take the two points.”
Keinhorst scored 10 tries in 28 appearances last season. Only Kallum Watkins, with 18, touched down more times for Rhinos in 2016 and Keinhorst said he is pleased to have got on the scoreboard already this year.
“It’s good,” he said. “You always want to do that as soon as possible so it’s nice to get that out of the way.”
Leeds will aim to build on last week’s 17-14 success when they face Salford tonight.
“Salford will be tough opposition,” Keinhorst predicted. “Everyone’s looking to pick up points as early as they can.
“They will come here fancying their chances. It’s a game we are looking forward to, it’ll be good to play at home after two away games and we want to put in a good performance for the fans who’ve been brilliant in those two away games.
“There’s a lot to work on from last week. In the second half we didn’t respect possession as much as we could have done.
“That will be a big focus, with the management of the game. We’ll look forward to doing that and putting in a big performance.”
Keinhorst is confident of being fit for tonight, despite playing with a slight injury last week. He said: “I was struggling with a bit of a groin strain going into the game, but I came out of it all right.