Preview: Reds v Rebels

Date published: May 16 2014

For all their sparkle out wide and solidarity up front, the Reds have endured a woeful start to their Super Rugby campaign.

For all their sparkle out wide and solidarity up front, the Reds have endured a woeful start to their Super Rugby campaign, mustering a sole victory from their last eight matches.

Defeat to the Crusaders, who have really found their groove, last week was widely expected, though the manner and margin of the loss will have come as a major disappointment to Richard Graham and co.

But succumbing at home to the Rebels on Saturday, the team traditionally regarded as the tournament whipping boys but who currently hold a narrow advantage in the Australian Conference over their Queensland rivals, is simply not acceptable.

The experienced Test campaigners in the squad – Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Beau Robinson and James Horwill – must step up and grab things by the scruff of the neck if the barren run is to come to an end. This is their ideal opportunity to do so, with the fixture list throwing up showdowns with the Highlanders (h) and Rebels (a) in quick succession: these are games the Reds should rightly feel capable of winning.

Robinson makes his 50th appearance for the Reds in the back-row alongside Jake Schatz and Curtis Browning; Horwill is partnered in the engine room by Rob Simmonds, while out wide, the back three comprises Mike Harris in the number 15 jersey, with Dom Shipperley and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi on the wings.

The Reds may feel resurgent, but Tony McGahan's men are no pushovers. What they lack in Wallaby stars or big-name imports they more than make up for in determination and heart, acquitting themselves well this season and springing a surprise or two.

You may argue that determination and heart are second to quality and skill level when it comes to winning professional rugby matches, but these attributes are crucial to building togetherness and a tight-knit squad willing to run through walls for each other.

Led by inspirational skipper Scott Higginbotham at number eight, the energetic Luke Burgess, booming boot of Jason Woodward and vision of Tamati Ellison have all come to the fore. It's simply the lack of a cutting edge, a ruthlessness in attack to take the chances on which such hotly-contested games depend that has held them back.

When they do capitalise on opportunities, they tend to win: look at the way they battled to victory over the Brumbies at AAMI Park with a second-half blitz the Conference leaders had no answer to.

With Japanese internationals Male Sau and Shota Horie involved in Rugby World Cup Qualifiers, McGahan brings in Tom Kingston on the right wing and Telusa Veainu alongside replacement hooker Steve Fualau. Experienced prop Toby Smith starts while young playmaker Jack Debreczeni wins a spot on the bench.

Form: The Reds have lost five games on the trot, their last win coming courtesy of a narrow home victory over the struggling Stormers way back in late March. The Rebels' form is not much better, winning just one of their last five – at home against the Force – and falling most recently to the Hurricanes in Melbourne.

Previous Results:
2013: Reds beat Rebels 33-20 in Brisbane
2013: Reds beat Rebels 23-13 in Melbourne
2012: Reds beat Rebels 32-17 in Melbourne
2012: Reds beat Rebels 11-6 in Brisbane
2011: Reds beat Rebels 33-18 in Melbourne

Prediction: The Reds will labour their way to victory. Reds by 10!

The teams:

Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Dave McDuling, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Rod Davies.

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20. Sean McMahon, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Telusa Veainu.

Date: Saturday 17 May
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 local (09.40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)