Queensland Reds prepared for acid test
May 16, 2013
Ewen McKenzie is content with the Reds' formline © Getty Images
Queensland Reds are in great shape heading towards the Super Rugby play-offs, coach Ewen McKenzie said after Sharks counterpart John Plumtree intimated they might face a reality check on tour in South Africa.
McKenzie insisted the 2011 champions had the best form line in the competition and knew they could seal a play-off berth by sweeping their testing two-match tour of the Republic. The Reds face the vastly improved, free-running Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday before travelling to Cape Town to play the Stormers - the only Super Rugby team to have conceded fewer tries than Queensland.
Plumtree said after the Reds had defeated his Sharks 32-17 at Suncorp Stadium last weekend: "I think they are alright but I'm not sure they are the best. They have a tough tour coming up ... that will be a good indication. They're going to be faced with some pretty big packs. It's whether they can cope with them."
McKenzie accepted the Cheetahs would provide stern opposition on top of a short preparation after flying into Bloemfontein on Monday, but he said that his side's form - last losing in Super Rugby round five, against Western Force, before winning five and drawing two matches - and their depth up front put them in good position heading into their next three matches before the June internationals break.
"Every game is a barometer about how you are going but, at the moment, our form line is better than most," said McKenzie. "A lot of people would like our form line. This will be a good test the next two games but, if we win the next two games, we still have to go back and beat the Rebels, and they're running close. It's not lost on us exactly where we are on the comp and we know that if we get the next couple of weeks right, then you can make the finals by June."
Reds captain James Horwill has been cleared to return from a head knock, but McKenzie is unlikely to make any other changes to the starting side if fullback Jono Lance overcomes a shoulder nerve problem. Lance's injury might open the door for Ben Lucas or Luke Morahan, while Wallabies centre Ben Tapuai could face another week on the bench following Chris Feauai-Sautia's strong display against the Sharks.
"He was exceptional for us," half-back Will Genia said of Feauai-Sautia. "He has that X-factor and that flare to beat an opponent one-on-one and he's incredibly strong in contact."
The Reds looked good in defeating the Sharks (video available in Australia only)