The Reds take on the Highlanders in round 17 of Super Rugby action at Suncorp Stadium tonight. These teams, along with the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Sharks, are in a desperate battle for the last two finals spots. For the loser of this game it’s curtains for the season. The players and management of both franchises know what’s at stake and will be doing everything in their power to walk away with the win tonight.
The Reds welcome back Ben Tapuai but have lost the hard-running Digby Ioane to a chest infection and boom openside Liam Gill to a hamstring injury. Chris F’Sautia gets another chance to impress in Ioane’s wing position Tapuai takes F’Sautia’s place on the bench) while crowd favourite Beau Robinson, who is battling his own ankle injury, takes over at openside flanker. The Reds lose very little with Robinson in for Gill, but as talented as Chris F’Sautia is, any team would miss Ioane. The rest of the Reds lineup is unchanged from last week. Ben Lucas runs out for his 50th game. The utility back has been an integral part of the Reds success over the last few years. Well done Ben.
The Highlanders have lost Tamati Ellison to a hamstring injury and make five other changes to the lineup that lost to the Chiefs last week. Siali Piutau replaces Ellison, serial pests Andrew Hore and Jimmy Cowan start at hooker and halfback, Josh Bekhuis goes to the second row, James Haskell starts at openside and Mike Delany runs on at five-eighth. This is a major reshuffle in key positions and it’s easy to see that the Highlanders want to play a more in-your-face style of rugby. Four points adrift of sixth place, they need a lot of things to fall their way to make the finals. They, like the Reds, must win these last two matches.
1. Greg Holmes, 2. Saia Faingaa, 3. James Slipper, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Adam Wallace-Harrison (vc), 6. Jake Schatz, 7. Beau Robinson, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper,1 1. Chris F’Sautia, 12. Mike Harris, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Luke Morahan.
Reserves : 16. James Hanson, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Radike Samo, 19. Jarrad Butler, 20. Ben Lucas, 21. Ben Tapuai, 22. Nick Frisby.
15. Ben Smith, 14. Kade Poki, 13. Siali Piutau, 12. Phil Burleigh, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Mike Delany, 9. Jimmy Cowan, 8. Nasi Manu, 7. James Haskell, 6. Adam Thomson, 5. Nick Crosswell, 4. Josh Bekhuis, 3. Ma’afu Fia, 2. Andrew Hore, 1. Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Reserves: 16. Jason Rutledge, 17. Chris King, 18. Jarrad Hoeata, 19. Tim Boys, 20. Aaron Smith, 21. Chris Noakes, 22. Kenny Lynn.
VENUE & TIME: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Friday July 6, 7.40pm (AEST), 9.40pm (NZT)
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 15 – Highlanders 9, Reds 6.
LAST TIME: 15 March 2010 (Brisbane) – Reds 38-36 Highlanders
Phill Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Adam Thomson, Beau Robinson, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia. They can all turn a game in a second. But the player I think is ready to take a game by the scruff of the neck and wring it dry is Quade Cooper. He has eased his way back into Super Rugby over several weeks now and surely can’t be too far off full fitness. Look for Super Cooper to once again be The Man tonight.
The Fearless Prediction
Seriously? I have to make a prediction? This one could really go either way. I want the Reds to win so much it nearly hurts. But the Highlanders look like a great side. So, because I think the Highlanders already accept their season’s over, because Suncorp Stadium is a Reds fortress, because it’s Benny Lucas’s 50th game, but mostly because I really really want them to…
Reds by 5!