Reds seek to complete Kiwi sweep
April 26, 2013
The Reds beat the Chiefs in their latest match against New Zealand opposition © Getty Images
Queensland Reds have shrugged off their Digby dramas as they seek to complete a Super Rugby sweep of New Zealand opponents. No Australian side in the competition's 17-year history has beaten all their New Zealand opponents in a single season, but the Reds are hungry to be the first when they host the Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Only the Cape Town-based Stormers, in 2010, when they made the final against the Bulls, have brushed aside all their Kiwi rivals. Even the 2001 and 2004 champion Brumbies outfits fell short, winning four of their five trans-Tasman games, and Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie is keen to capture a "unique achievement".
"We're always interested in those little bits of opportunity and making a little bit of history," McKenzie said. "We had a chat about that the other day and we'll reinforce that. We're a side that takes pride in ticking off new milestones and breaking hoodoos."
The Reds under McKenzie have a 14-4 win-loss record against Kiwi sides, including their memorable 30-13 semi-final victory over the Blues at Suncorp Stadium in 2011. The Blues return to Suncorp as the shock leaders of the New Zealand conference thanks to an immediate revival under new coach John Kirwan. A potent attacking outfit with a dynamic backrow and dangerous outside backs, the refreshed Blues will fancy their chances of coming off their bye to upset a Reds outfit drained by their brutal 19-19 draw with the Brumbies.
Queensland have also endured a tumultuous week, with Wallabies winger Digby Ioane revealing he will walk out on the franchise after this season due to a murky contract dispute, but hooker Saia Faingaa, one of two changes to the Reds' 22, denied the issue had affected the playing group or Ioane.
The Queensland Rugby Union has maintained a hard line with Ioane's management, threatening legal action, but the door remains open for him to play out the third and final year of his lucrative contract in 2014. And McKenzie says he won't be surprised to see Ioane running around in a Reds jersey next year, just as Will Genia did after initially deciding to leave for Western Force 12 months ago. "Until there's pen on paper, it's never say never for me," he said. "He's loose, free and easy like he always is, and he's in good humour."
Reds: Jonathan Lance; Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk; James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons; James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley. Replacements: James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Ed O`Donoghue, Jarrad Butler, Ben Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Dom Shipperley.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand