Ewen McKenzie has responded to last week’s heartbreaker by bringing in several new players for the Crusaders game, most noteably young blade Jake Schatz, who will start at blind-side flanker. In an effort to sure up a shaky forward pack, Link has also put the cleaners through the bench by dropping James Slipper and Andrew Shaw.
There are several other changes for the Reds who will be without veterans Van Humphries and Sean Hardman through injury. Big Kev moves back to lock and Saia Faingaa gets his first chance to start for the Reds after 13 outings from the bench.
Schatz has outstanding pedigree coming through both the under 20 Australian and Schoolboy teams. Ominously though, the Crusaders are a stratospheric level above this and with only a few pre-season games to his name, Schatz will be tested.
Leroy Houston makes a return to Super rugby via the bench after a pre-season false start as do Rob Simmons and Spuddie Holmes.
Leroy was looking great during pre-season before a knee injury held him back and McKenzie is looking forward to the added experience that he and Holmes will bring the squad.
“Experience against a quality side like the Crusaders you’re going to need if you want to match them the whole way across the 80 minutes,” McKenzie said.
“You go into these games with 22 players and the squad has to deliver a result. I’ve been big on that over the years. You might get two minutes or 20 minutes, but you have to make the team go better.
“Leroy has had an interrupted preseason but the good news for us is he’s 12 kilos lighter then last year. He hasn’t had the opportunity in the trials so he is probably short of match fitness, but he is fit.
“As an impact player he is a good proposition for us. It’s the same with Greg Holmes.”
The player under the most pressure will be Saia Faingaa who must hold together the Reds pack against a powerful Crusaders brigade.
There is no question about Faingaa’s ability in the loose however as the second half last week against the Tahs showed, he still has some way to go with putting in a consistent performance at the set-piece.
The Reds showed enough in the first 70 mins of last weeks game to suggest they are a more reliable outfit than last year’s version but the final 10 mins proved they are still a way off being any more successful.
Reds squad to play Canterbury: Peter Hynes (GPS), Digby Ioane (Sunnybank), Morgan Turinui (Sunshine Coast), Anthony Faingaa (Souths), Rod Davies (GPS), Quade Cooper (Souths), Will Genia (Norths), Scott Higginbotham (Wests), Daniel Braid (Sunshine Coast), Jake Schatz (Sunnybank), James Horwill (University), Adam Byrnes (University), Laurie Weeks (University), Saia Faingaa (Souths), Ben Daley (Gold Coast). Reserves: James Hanson (University), Greg Holmes (Sunnybank), Robert Simmons (Sunnybank), Leroy Houston (Sunnybank), Richard Kingi (Sunnybank), Tim Walsh (club TBC) Will Chambers (club TBC)