Finals rugby has come early for the Reds as this weeks game against a resurgent ‘Canes is a must win if they are to have any hope of featuring in the semi’s. A loss will see them bounced from the top 4 and on very shaky ground to make their way back.
Wellington on the other hand are starting to look like the trouble makers of the comp and are playing some really fucking good rugby…just ask Ma’a!
The Reds have been forced into making 7 changes from last Saturday’s debacle with Van Humphries, Radike Samo, Rocket Rod, Andrew Shaw, Lei Tomiki and James Slipper all added to the squad.
It is a rag-tag crew as neither Slipper nor Shaw have been sighted since the first round loss to the Tahs, while Tomiki has been on club duties and Samo has barely had a chance to learn everyone’s name since arriving a little over a week ago.
Despite both starting locks from last week being ruled out through injury, the biggest loss will be that of Daniel Braid. Quite simply he has been outstanding for the Reds and along with Humphries has lead a relatively inexperienced pack to with aplomb.
The Reds looked tired and listless in Canberra so it was no surprise McKenzie decided to give the team an extra day off this week in order for them to try and freshen up.
McKenzie will have no doubt learned a few tricks about getting teams up for games after experiencing the relentless nature of European rugby so he is clearly looking for a boost of energy that the inclusions of Shaw and Tomiki might bring.
After the win against the Stormers, McKenzie hinted the Reds slow start to that match may have had something to do with the growing weight of expectation on the team. Against the Ponies, the Reds certainly didn’t look like a finals chance so perhaps this weight has grown too much for the young team to handle?
Or was it that the Brumbies were just too good?
Whatever the case, the Reds will need to be back to their best if they are to get close to the Canes. The home side has seemingly come from nowhere to be in finals contention, and since they destroyed the Brumbies two weeks ago, have not looked back.
The Reds’ success this season has been built on rock solid defence and they have used this as a springboard to launch their attack. That venom was missing last week and it is vital it return this week or the rampant Canes will rattle up a cricket score.
One thing is for sure however; keep the sound down if you are watching this one around the kiddies as the foul-mouthed triumvirate of Humphries, Nonu and Bryce “No-more-fucking-around” Lawrence will no doubt drop the odd F-bomb during the match.
Could it be last week’s loss will turn out to be a blessing for the Reds? A good loss of sorts? A much needed kick up the arse? The recession we had to have perhaps?
We’ll know come Friday night, but the Reds are underdogs and that is a tag they seem to wear well.
Cote says – Reds by 5