Super Rugby Season Preview: Reds

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

If they are to meet public expectation in 2017, the Queensland Reds must pull off one of the most dramatic turnarounds Super Rugby has ever seen.

Following a fruitless, three-win 2016, the team on paper is there to do it.

An influx of 326 Test caps between Quade Cooper, George Smith, Stephen Moore and Scott Higginbotham has certainly helped in that regard.

There is plenty of positive chatter out of Ballymore and team morale is high - Higginbotham's police incident has not affected the squad in the slightest.

Both external and internal expectations have the Reds pushing for the Australian conference title but coach Nick Stiles is the first to admit that an impressive team on paper counts for nothing when they take to the field against the Sharks on Friday night.

INS + OUTS

In his first year as coach, Nick Stiles has a powerful squad to work with. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

IN: Markus Vanzati (Brisbane City), Alex Mafi (Queensland Country), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Izack Rodda (Queensland Country), Reece Hewat (Norths), George Smith (Suntory), Leroy Houston (Bath), Scott Higginbotham (NEC), Moses Sorovi (University), Quade Cooper (Toulon), Lachlan Maranta (Brisbane Broncos), Jayden Ngamanu (Souths).

OUT: Ben Daley (Force), Greg Holmes (Exeter), Saia Fainga'a (Brumbies), Matt Mafi (released), Ben Matwijow (Force), Curtis Browning (Lyon), Liam Gill (Toulon), Waita Setu (released), Lolo Fakaosilea (Brumbies), Jake Schatz (Rebels), Scott Gale (released), Sam Greene (Toyota), Anthony Fainga'a (Brumbies), Alex Gibbon (released), Junior Laloifi (released), Tom Banks (Brumbies), Ayumu Goromaru (Toulon), JJ Taulagi (Munakata), Jack Tuttle (released).

Nick Frisby will get his chance to form a combination with Quade Cooper this season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

INJURY LIST

Chris Feauai-Sautia (knee), Reece Hewat (knee).

BIGGEST RECRUIT

George Smith

The loss of Liam Gill at the peak of his powers was a major blow prior to the revelation that Smith would play his rugby for the Reds this season.

Every title contender features an elite ball fetcher and while Smith should not be pigeon-holed as just a fetcher, there is no better breakdown specialist in the game.

Young gun Adam Korczyk will be the Robin to Smith's Batman in applying breakdown pressure but Gill and Smith are cut from the same cloth.

The 36-year-old is as fit as ever and will be vital to the Reds' revival attempt in 2017.

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER

Quade Cooper

The fate of the Reds will rest on Quade Cooper's shoulders. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyStephen Moore brings leadership, Scott Higginbotham provides extra punch in the backrow and George Smith boasts unparalleled breakdown skills but Cooper is the man the Reds need to fire the most if they are to scale the Australian Conference.

The Reds scored 33 tries in 2016 - good for equal second last in Super Rugby last season.

That is simply not going to get it done and Cooper has the arsenal outside him to double that number in 2017.

Samu Kerevi is one of the best centres in world rugby, the wings are packed with firepower in the form of Eto Nabuli and Chris Kuridrani and both Karmichael Hunt and Duncan Paia'aua know when to chime in with some playmaking of their own.

Cooper set the 2010 and 2011 competition on fire alongside Will Genia and he must form a formidable combination with Nick Frisby to provide the spark that has been missing from the Reds attack since 2015.

WALLABIES BOLTER

Adam Korczyk

Adam Korczyk has the size and mobility that Michael Cheika loves in his Wallabies pack. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe 22-year-old, 107kg Korczyk has packed on 5kg of lean muscle in the off-season and Stiles has likened his professionalism to David Pocock.

If that's not a big enough wrap, he has earned a starting nod ahead of Hendrik Tui, who was one of the Reds' very best players in 2016.

He attacks the breakdown with ferocity and carries the ball with just as much intent.

Michael Cheika loves forwards that can do it all and the man they call "Kiwi" is the full package.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

Nick Stiles is ready and raring to go for Super Rugby Round 1. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyStiles fronted the media today and said his team was ready to walk the walk on Friday night.

"Every team gets to this press conference and talks with a lot of hope, a lot of excitement," he said.

"That's all well and good but the reality is we have already displayed some character attributes that weren't there over the last couple of years.

"That desire as a team to work and defend, through the Tens and then how hard we played in defence against the Rebels was a really good indicator of where the group is at.

"Now it gets stepped up in Super Rugby and I'm as excited as anyone just to see where we are at as a group."

WHAT'S A PASS MARK?

Finals football. That is the prism through which this team will be judged.

The Australian conference is there to be won with the Brumbies void of experience and the Waratahs seemingly vulnerable but if Queensland are to stumble, qualifying for the finals would be a satisfactory effort.

PREDICTION

This team has all the ingredients to go from zero to hero in 2017.

They will win the Australian conference and win the home qualifying final but fall short in their preliminary final.

Join the discussion

Advertisement