Preview: Reds vs Blues
When the colours red and blue are mixed, you get purple, much like the colour most players’ bodies will resemble after this bruising battle when they sit back on Saturday to see how the rest of the weekend unfolds.
After the thumping they delivered upon the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago, the Reds would not be happy with the fact that they only got a draw out of their match against the Brumbies on a day that they were actually far better than their opponents. They would probably not be making the same mistake of not slotting those kickable penalties as they attempt their first ever clean-sweep over their New Zealand rivals.
There might be some trouble behind the scenes in Queensland, but on the field they have been looking like champs ever since Will Genia returned from injury and Quade Cooper got his mojo back – quite possibly the best 9/10 combination in the competition. Digby Ioane may well be heading out of Brisbane, but on the field, he knows only one way, and that’s toward the try line and with Rocket Rod Davies in the superb form, Ioane’s impending departure won’t leave too big a hole.
The thing that makes the Reds so good is their multi-faceted game plan and as Sir John Kirwin stated, their well-mixed attack makes them quite lethal right across the park. There seems to be plenty of oil to burn in the engine room and if I had to single out one prominent performer, it has to be Jake Schatz – his high work rate and consistency have been invaluable to the team’s success thus far. From what I’ve seen, the Reds are probably the hardest team to play against in terms of their swarming forwards, swooping in on the ball at every possible opportunity with Liam Gill leading the way.
Most Likely to Score for the Reds: Quade Cooper
In fairytale fashion, the Blues have made a phoenix-like rise from the ashes, from zeroes to heroes in just seven 80-minute outings. They’ve recovered well after losing three consecutive games and will undoubtedly consider this encounter as their acid test. If they are able to outplay the Reds against the odds of their proud home record, then they might yet be in for their first title shot in ten years.
I doubt anyone will disagree with the heaps of praise that have been thrown upon number thirteen through fifteen. René Ranger has been nothing short of phenomenal at outside center and I suspect that with the ability Jackson Willison has to straighten the line so magnificently, he’ll be hitting quite a few gaps on Friday. Then there are the two bolting brothers-from-other-mothers – Frank Halai and Charles Piutau – these two have rapidly become household names in rugbyland and they have gained a stupendous amount of yards in the process.
Their forwards haven’t been performing as consistently well as the backs, but the same can certainly not be said of Steven Luatua; he’ll be kicking ass and taking names all night long as he’s done all season. I must also add that since Piri Weepu has done his bit for load shedding, the All Black scrummy has been fairly lively and remarkably involved in the action. This pack will have their work cut out for them as they come face-to-face with the organised Queenslanders, so they’ll have to put their absolute best foot forward to ensure they get quality ball to the speedsters.
Most Likely to Score for the Blues: Charles Piutau
History have not been the benchmark of this year’s results and week after week a surprise or two have dumbfounded the bookies, but in this case I believe it will repeat itself.
Gagga says Reds by 8
by Jackie Smit