Preview: Reds v Blues

Date published: March 18 2016

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The Reds host the Blues at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday as both sides bid to return to their winning ways.

The home side are winless from three matches after losing to the Waratahs, Force and Rebels. This means that they are at the bottom of the Australian conference with just one log point to show for their efforts.

Despite that poor start to the season, the history books favour the 2011 champions as they have won four out of the last five encounters against the Blues. They have also not lost at home to the Aucklanders since 2010.

The Blues got out of the starting blocks firing with an impressive 33-31 victory over the Highlanders in their opener at Eden Park. That was their only triumph until now.

A win for the Blues will see them move to within one point of the New Zealand conference leaders, the Chiefs.

Snapping their disastrous run of away form would be a start, with the Super Rugby centurion Josh Bekhuis hoping to mark his milestone game this weekend by ending that unwanted streak which goes back to June 2014.

"I think it's pretty important changing that trend," Bekhuis told NZ Newswire.

"But firstly, we have to think on a weekly basis and, for that, your mindset has to be to win, no matter if it's home or away. It starts upstairs.

The last time these teams met: Back in 2014 it was All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu who carved up the Reds defence with ease, making a huge contribution in the Blues' 44-14 bonus point victory in Auckland. The visitors failed to score any points in the first stanza with their first points coming courtesy of a Ben Daley try in the 53rd minute, but by this point the Blues had already secured their four-try bonus point. 

Players to watch: Reds midfielder Anthony Fainga’a's prowess on attack and defence is well known and the Wallaby international will be hoping to continue where he left off in their narrow defeat against the Rebels last week when he was a willing ball carrier. Scrum-half Nick Frisby will also need to be marked by the Auckland side, the nippy number nine gained 63 metres on attack last week. 

Blues midfielder George Moala impressed against the Hurricanes, beating five defenders and winning 51 metres in the process. Winger Tevita Li also did well in that clash, beating the same amount of players, with 62 metres gained. Captain Jerome Kaino was clinical on defence, making nine tackles against the men from Wellington.

Team news: The Reds have made one injury-enforced change for this one against the Blues. Injured Ben Daley makes way for Brisbane City prop Pettowa Paraka to come into the matchday 23 for the first time this year.

Blues lock Bekhuis – in his 18th game for the Aucklanders after playing 82 times for the Highlanders – joins illustrious company when he makes his 100th appearance in Super Rugby against the Reds in Brisbane. The only change in the forwards is the return of lock Patrick Tuipulotu with Steven Luatua moving back to number eight and Akira Ioane to the bench. Compelling form from All Blacks Sevens teenager Rieko Ioane has won him his first start on the right wing in an otherwise unchanged backline.

Form: The Reds have made an awful start to their season, losing all their games so far. A late Jack Debreczeni penalty denied them a victory in their narrow 25-23 loss to the Rebels last week. The Brisbane side only managed two penalties in their Round Two loss to the Force. The best that they could do against the Waratahs was denying them a bonus point in another heavy defeat in their season opener.

The Blues have lost their last two matches following their impressive opening round 33-31 victory over the defending champions. Losses to the Crusaders, 28-13, in Round Two and falling short in the 19-23 loss to the Hurricanes last week hasn't been the start that head coach Tana Umaga was hoping for. 

Prediction: A tough one to call seeing that both sides hae only shown glimpses of promise, history should be with the home side again. Reds to win by less than five points. 

Previous results:

2014: Blues won 44-14 in Auckland
2013: Reds won 11-12 in Brisbane
2012: Reds won 11-23 in Auckland
2011: Reds won 13-30 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 31-37 in Brisbane
2010: Blues won 27-18 in Brisbane
2009: Blues won 24-31 in North Harbour
2008: Blues won 35-22 in Brisbane

The teams:

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 Waita Setu, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase
Replacements: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Male Sa’u, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Akira Ioane, 22 Billy Guyton, 23 Matt McGahan

Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 18:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Jordan Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore

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