The Reds host the Kings from South Africa at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night in a match that threatens to slip by almost completely unnoticed. Easter weekend, two lowly ranked team, a traditionally poor drawing South African outfit, rugby in a national rut. The Stadium doors may need to be flung open to get any sort of crowd.
While both teams have just the six competition points to their name, the Reds still have plenty to play for when compared to their African counterparts. Currently the Kings sit on the bottom of their Africa 2 Conference trailing the high-flying Lions by 17 points. In fact they sit 13 points adrift of the conference third placed team, the Jaguares.
The Reds, however, are still mathematically still in with a shot. In fact a win this weekend over the Kings will see them soar up the Australian Conference table into second spot! Now of course we have the bye the following week allowing both the Waratahs and Force to leapfrog us again to reclaim their advantage, but that’s something for future Reg to deal with.
Let’s take a look at the now (and then).
This will be the first meeting between the Reds and Kings; the South African side have won once, drawn once and lost once in their three previous visits to Australia.
The Reds have won six of their last eight games at home against South African opposition, including each of their last two.
The Kings have won just one of their last five games outside of South Africa, conceding an average of 48 points per game across that period
Stats courtesy of Opta Sports
Both teams enter this match looking for just their second win of the season.
The Kings’ sole win has been on the road, in Singapore, against the lowly Sunwolves. Their other away games have been a tight loss to the Sharks (17-19) and last week’s high scoring encounter against the Force (41-46).
The Reds have struggled to regain the fortress feel of Suncorp but managed to win their only game of the year there, back in Round 1 against the Sharks. Since then the Reds have lost home battles to the Crusaders (20-22) and the Hurricanes (15-34). In both matches the Reds were right in the game at half time, before producing error ridden and disappointing second halves.
The Reds welcome back two key players in Quade Cooper at flyhalf and Michael Hunt at fullback. Hunt comes straight into fullback to replace Lachlan Mantaray, who failed to make an impact in his starting debut against the Brumbies, while Quade returns at scrumhalf. Cooper’s return sees Jack McIntyre drop out of the squad altogether as the teenage Stewart Hamish is preferred as his backup. The other big news is Stephen More’s absence from the match day 22 with Matt Mafi taking his starting spot at hooker and Andrew Reddy returning to the side on the bench.
With Moore absent and James Sliper injured, Samu Kerevi has been named as captain of the Reds fort he first time. Kerevi already carries such a large burden for the Reds so it will be interesting to note how the leadership impacts his play.
Other changes to the starting team include Hendrick Tui and Lukhan Tui coming into the starting side for Kane Douglas and Adam Korzcyk respectively while Kris Curidrani will join them on the bench as Isaiah Perese starts.
The Lions have made four changes to their team that lost to the Force with the loss of their halfback Malcolm Jaer perhaps the biggest loss, on the back of his four try effort against the Rebels last week. There are three further changes in the pack with both props rotated as well as one of the locks.
Hansie Cronje showed some lovely touches for his Kings side in their last outing against the Force last week. He put in a perfectly weighted grubber for his winger, Yaw Penxe, to score in the corner. A little while later he one-upped himself with a piece of play that would be the talk of the competition if it wasn’t for the freakishness that was Dillyn Lewis offload for the Stormers against the Crusaders.
His pass around his own back, to himself, and then a grubber off his left foot through the Spirit’s defence for his fullback Malcolm-Jamal Warner to score one of his two tries, was just phenomenal. Have another look here.
Up against Cronje will be the returning Quade Coper, back in the Red 12 shirt after serving a four week suspension. QC ‘s magic seems more confined to youtube clips of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but he is a key component of this Red’s outfit. Jake MacIntosh, and the entire team, struggled in his absence. In fact the only competition points the Reds have secured this season (a win and two loss bonuses) have been from matches Quade played (and finished) in.
My first prediction is that the appointment of the match officials will anger plenty of Reds fans. Discipline is a big issue for Queensland team and to get three South African officials when playing a South African team seems a little odd.
From a match perspective, I expect the Reds to bounce back to win their first game of the season. Lions by 8.
1. Sef Fa’agase
2. Alex Mafi
3. Sam Talakai
4. Rob Simmons
5. Lukhan Tui
6. Hendrik Tui
7. George Smith
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. James Tuttle
10. Quade Cooper
11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Samu Kerevi (C)
14. Izaia Perese
15. Karmichael Hunt
16. Andrew Ready
17. Kirwan Sanday
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Kane Douglas
20. Adam Korczyk
21. Nick Frisby
22. Hamish Stewart
23. Chris Kuridrani
15. Chris Heiberg
14. Michael Willemse
11. Wilhelm van der Sluys
10. Chris Cloete
8. Ruaan Lerm (v/c)
7. Louis Schreuder
6. Lionel Cronje (c)
5. Makazole Mapimpi
4. Luzuko Vulindlu
3. Berton Klaasen
2. Yaw Penxe
16. Martin Bezuidenhout
17. Schalk van der Merwe
18. Dayan van der Westhuizen
19. Irne Herbst
20. Andisa Ntsila
22. Pieter-Steyn de Wet
Date: Saturday, 16 April
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15:05 AEDT
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Damian Murphy (South Africa)
TMO: Damon Mitchelmore (South Africa)