Reds aim to take another big scalp
April 19, 2013
Queensland Reds captain James Horwill has backed Liam Gill (pictured) to match Test great George Smith on Saturday night © Getty Images
Queensland skipper James Horwill has declared the Reds must show their chameleon characteristics to overthrow the Brumbies in Saturday night's high-stakes Super Rugby showdown.
A week of bitter niggle and angst between the opposing camps has set the stage for a fiery, pseudo-finals clash in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
The competition lead, conference control, the Rod Macqueen Cup, potential Wallabies jerseys and Test coaching credentials will all go on the line in the season's pivotal Australian derby.
At home, where they have won 24 of their past 28 matches, the Reds will start favourites after a classy 31-23 upset of the defending champions the Chiefs in New Zealand.
Horwill said the Reds had plenty more improvement left but needed to change their stripes to master a new game plan to counter the table-topping Brumbies.
While the attack-conscious Chiefs threaten with their expansive play, the physical ACT side has perfected a conservative territorial game on the back of their set-piece physicality and breakdown tenacity.
"While last week was a great result for us and each week we are improving, I don't feel we're playing to our full potential yet," Horwill said. "There is great confidence in us from that result in Hamilton but the Brumbies are going to pose a completely different challenge to the Chiefs."
Highlighting the growing rivalry between the sides, coaches Jake White and Ewen McKenzie - the two heavyweight contenders for Robbie Deans' Wallabies job - have engaged in mind games all week.
Brumbies mentor White continued it on Friday by putting his team off-limits to the local media after flying into Brisbane for a closed-door final training session.
Captain Ben Mowen was instead hooked up on the phone, but he said the players had found the coaching niggle "hilarious".
"It's bloody good watching it," Mowen said. "We have a good laugh each day and that's part of the theatre. Everything's been covered, from refereeing to off-side lines ... but no one has spoken about what sort of underwear Georgey Smith is going to where yet - that's probably the last topic left to cover."
Smith will meet Deans after the match to discuss his availability for the three-match Lions series, but Horwill backed Reds flanker Liam Gill to show he's the equal of the 110-Test great in an intriguing openside flanker contest.
But in an ominous omen for the Reds' hopes to keep the Macqueen Cup, Smith has won all of his 11 matches against Queensland, dating back to 2000.
The front-row battle - with the Brumbies using their scrum as a point-scoring weapon - will also be a key area.
"They've got a good scrum and they put pressure on other teams so it's an area we have to make sure we aim up in," McKenzie said. "They play field position and then put pressure on your set-piece so you have to be able to win your ball and make sure you don't get stuck down in front of your goalposts."