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Super Rugby Preview: Reds

 

Ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season we take a closer look at each of the tournament’s 15 teams participating. Next up, the Reds.

If ever there is a team, perhaps besides the Bulls, to have enjoyed such a remarkable fall from grace, it would be the Reds. Having finished 1st, 3rd and 5th in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, the Queensland outfit have followed this up with 13th, 13th, 15th and 14th.

What does bode well for this Reds side is that they have a wonderful blend of youth and experience. Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou, Izaia Perese, Izack Rodda and Adam Korczyk have all just recently broken into the Wallabies set-up, while there are players who have been there and done that in captain Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi and George Smith who will provide invaluable experience.

Last year: After the season had started on a promising note with a 28-26 home victory over the Sharks in their opening encounter, the Reds conspired to then go on a six-game losing streak (Force, Crusaders, Lions, Jaguares, Hurricanes and Brumbies).

The next half of the season went slightly better with three wins from seven but it could not hide the fact that this was a side underperforming considering the talents at its disposal. Of those seven, wins came against the Kings, Rebels and Brumbies with losses to the Waratahs, Chiefs, Force (again) and the Blues.

Of all the teams in the competition, the Reds had the worst goal-kicking success rate with a paltry 65 per cent. Perhaps as a result, new coach Brad Thorn has rung the changes in the fly-half department, dropping Quade Cooper, installing hot prospect Hamish Stewart as his first-choice while bringing in experienced recruits in Jono Lance and Ben Lucas as backup.

This year: The Reds will need to capitalise on their kinder fixture list and make sure they get off to a better than last season, which saw them winning one of their first seven.

Also, they will need to improve on a woeful away record, which saw them win one of seven on their travels. Unfortunately for the Reds, they have failed to acquire any Force players following their axing with the other three Australian conferences the major beneficiaries and have been unable to really bolster their squad as much as their rivals.

Luckily for them, they avoid defending champions Crusaders as well as the Chiefs in their schedule.

Key players: The talismanic Samu Kerevi enjoyed a fantastic 2017 and was rewarded with a place in the Super Rugby team of the year. Kerevi made the seventh most carries, beat the third most defenders and made the ninth most clean breaks in the competition last year. It is hard to believe he is still only 24 with the leadership qualities he displays, having been given the armband last year.

What a find rugby league convert Eto Nabuli has been, another player to enjoy a stellar 2017 as he chipped in with eight tries, just over a sixth of the side’s entire tally for the season. He then translated that form on to the international stage. A try-scoring machine.

Players to watch: At just 19 years of age and with only four Reds caps, much will depend on Aussie U20s star Hamish Stewart in the fly-half position. Should he be able to control a dangerous backline and allow players like Samu Kerevi and Izaia Perese to flourish, this could represent the Reds’ best chance of making the quarter-finals since 2013.

Perese, who was a team-mate of Stewart’s at the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia, was one of the players of that tournament and will be remembered for a scintillating hat-trick in the group stages against Italy. He is a fleet-footed centre with a low centre of gravity and a superb skill set. Versatile, he can also play outside back.

Prospects: The fixture list has been kinder to the Reds this year, as they have a much easier start to their campaign this season than last season’s difficult beginning.

While they will be disappointed to have lost out on Will Genia’s signature to the Rebels, the Reds have plenty to boast about themselves and, as long as they can remain injury-free, we don’t see why a top-half finish is not on the cards.

Players In:

Angus Blyth (Bond University), Filipo Daugunu (Queensland Country), Harry Hockings (University of Queensland), Harry Hoopert (Brothers Old Boys), Jono Lance (Rebels), Ben Lucas (Verblitz), Tate McDermott (Queensland Country), Brandon Paenga-Amosa (NSW Country Eagles), Angus Scott-Young (Queensland Country), JP Smith (Brumbies), Aidan Toua (Honda Heat), Liam Wright (Queensland Country)

Players Out:

Nick Frisby (Bordeaux), Leroy Houston (Bordeaux), Phil Kite (Vannes), Chris Kuridrani (Brisbane City), Campbell Magnay (Suntory Sungoliath), Jake McIntyre (Agen), Stephen Moore (retired), Caderyn Neville (Toyota Industries Shuttles), Jayden Ngamanu (Brisbane City), Rob Simmons (Waratahs), Kirwan Sanday (Queensland Country), Henry Taefu (Colomiers), Sam Takakai (Rebels), Hendrik Tui (Suntory Sungoliath)

Fixtures:

Friday, February 23 v Rebels (AAMI Park, Melbourne)
Saturday, March 3 v Brumbies (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Saturday, March 10 v Bulls (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, March 17 v Jaguares (Estadio Jose Amalfitani)
Saturday, March 24 v Stormers (Newlands Stadium, Cape Town)
Saturday, April 7 v Brumbies (GIO Stadium, Canberra)
Saturday, April 14 v Waratahs (Allianz Stadium, Sydney)
Friday, April 28 v Lions (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, May 12 v Sunwolves (Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo)
Friday, May 18 v Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
Saturday, May 28 v Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)
Saturday, June 2 v Waratahs (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Friday, June 29 v Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
Friday, July 6 v Rebels (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Friday, July 13 v Sunwolves (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)



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