An all-Aussie derby finishes off Round Five of Super Rugby on Sunday when the Reds take on the Waratahs at Suncorp.
Since their abject performance losing to the Force in Round Two, shortly before Richard Graham was sacked, the Reds have begun to flicker into life.
Now coached by Matt O’Connor (the former Leinster head coach) and Nick Stiles, the Reds narrow loss to the Rebels and draw with the Blues last weekend have provided some cause for optimism after the bleakest of starts.
Were it not for Ihaia West’s 84th-minute penalty then that draw would have been a first win of the year, but to pick that up on Sunday will require the Reds to keep rapidly improving.
Three tries against the Blues doubled the Reds’ tally from their first three matches and the sooner Jake McIntyre settles into the fly-half role the better. Only the Kings have made fewer offloads too before Round Five.
Surprisingly though the Reds have the best scrum success percentage in the competition at 97 percent. Build off that and they have a fighting chance.
As for the visitors, last week’s topsy-turvy loss to the Highlanders nearly saw one of the most remarkable comebacks in Super Rugby history, clawing their back from a 30-0 deficit to lose 30-26.
New head coach Daryl Gibson will have been enthused by that fightback as much as he must have despaired with his team down by 30 points after 54 minutes.
The long-awaited return of Bernard Foley however is a huge boost. Australia’s fly-half has finally shaken off the shoulder injury he picked up in pre-season and with Kurtley Beale shifted to inside centre the Waratahs have their potent midfield partnership in place again.
Sunday’s challenge is to avoid making some unwanted history. The Waratahs have lost their last two matches and will be hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat for the first time since a horror run of nine straight losses from 2012 to 2013.
2016: Waratahs won 30-10 in Sydney
2015: Waratahs won 31-5 in Sydney
2015: Waratahs won 23-5 in Brisbane
2014: Waratahs won 34-3 in Brisbane
2014: Waratahs won 32-5 in Sydney
2013: Reds won 14-12 in Sydney
2013: Reds won 25-17 in Brisbane
2012: Reds won 32-16 in Brisbane
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 David Dennis (vc), 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro
Date: Sunday, March 27
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 15:05 local (05:05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Graham Cooper, Damien Mitchelmore
TMO: George Ayoub