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Preview: Reds v Chiefs

11th May 2012 13:46

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Sona Taumalolo Chiefs v Reds 2011

Chiefs: Unbeaten since February

The Reds have a big assignment awaiting them at Suncorp Stadium as the defending champs attempt to break the Chiefs' nine-match winning streak on Sunday.

The table-topping Chiefs, who equaled their best-ever season with last week's win over the Lions, have been the standouts of the 2012 competition to date with their only loss of the season coming against the Highlanders in Round One.

For Queensland, who sit ninth on the table, a win at home is non-negotiable as they strive to keep their play-off hopes alive.

Now nine points behind the Brumbies in the Australian conference, the Reds need to win five of their last six matches to guarantee a finals berth.

"They (the Chiefs) are playing well as a team," said Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.

"They've got a good culture going.

"They're the benchmark side. It's a good challenge for us at Suncorp."

The Chiefs have won on their last two visits to Brisbane, however the Reds prevailed 19-11 in their last encounter during the final round of the 2011 regular season in Hamilton.

But the tables have turned this time out, and the momentum is all with the Chiefs after the Reds came close but failed to knock the Crusaders off their perch in Christchurch last week.

While the previously red-hot Crusaders were kept quiet in Round 11, the Reds face another daunting task containing arguably the best backline in the competition. Sonny Bill Williams has struck up a fine combination with fellow All Black Richard Kahui in the centres while fly-half Aaron Cruden is currently in his career-best form.

"He's obviously taken a lot of confidence from the World Cup last year and now he's playing exceptionally well," said Reds halfback Will Genia.

"He's got the luxury of having guys like Sonny Bill (Williams) and (Richard) Kahui and (Lelia) Masaga outside him, which would make any team's job a lot easier. That's not to take any credit away from him."

On the other end of the scale, the Reds - competition entertainers in 2010 and 2011- have yet to gain an attacking bonus point in 2012 as they have struggled to score tries due to an injury-ravaged backline. The reigning champions have scored just 18 tries in 10 matches, with three their most in any single game.

Could that all change come kick-off on Sunday? As the Reds' hunt for survival increases week by week, they will certainly need to make a go of it.

Prediction: Tough one! The Reds have a lot more on the line than their trans-Tasman rivals, and for this reason we're backing the home side to come out trumps. Reds by five!

The teams:

Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Eddie Quirk, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Rod Davies.

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (capt), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Robbie Robinson.

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Sharks831
2Brumbies825
3Chiefs825
4Waratahs824
5Western Force823
6Crusaders822
7Hurricanes821
8Highlanders719
9Bulls919
10Lions916
11Blues816
12Reds816
13Melbourne Rebels816
14Stormers810
15Cheetahs99