Reds vs Sharks: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds broke a 15-year Durban hoodoo with their fighting 21-14 win against the Sharks at Kings Park.

Here's what we're talking about after the match that left the Reds in second place in the Australian conference.

1. Win shakes up Aussie conference

Things could change again by as early as tonight with the Waratahs, Rebels and Brumbies yet to play. But the win against the Sharks pushed the Reds to second place in the Australian conference behind the Rebels, with finals not mathematically out of their reach.

They need to become a much more consistent outfit if that is to become a reality but the mere notching of a win in South Africa - their first since a one-point victory over the Cheetahs in 2015 and first in Durban since 2004 - could be looked back on as a turning point for Brad Thorn's side. If it is to be so, Queensland needs to build on this performance though and continue to improve rather than continue the roller-coaster form line that has marked the past few years.

2. Defence really is an attitude

Turning up in the right frame of mind isn't necessarily going to help stop a rampaging 130kg forward. But the Reds simply looked disinterested at times against the Bulls last week, missing 35 tackles in their 32-17 loss in Pretoria, with assistant coach Peter Ryan saying a similar effort against the Sharks would result in having 50 points put on them.

They weren't always perfect but the Reds just kept turning up against the Sharks, players putting in for each other in the type of effort that can turn a season. It's something that needs to become the benchmark for Queensland though, not the exception, if they are to continue to win.

 

3. Izack Rodda a rock for young pack

In a roller-coaster season, Rodda is among the few Reds players to have maintained excellence consistently. While his stat line may not always be amongst the best in the team, the numbers alone cannot measure his impact on the game. Whether in the lineout, the defensive line, scrum or broken play, Rodda often comes up with the one per cent plays that help his team.

At just 22, Rodda is already an outstanding example to a pack full of even younger teammates and should have already done enough to have sealed his place in the Wallabies' World Cup squad.

4. Bye comes at the right time

While momentum is a valuable commodity in sport, next week's bye is just as valuable for a Reds outfit coming off a two-week tour of South Africa and needing to address injury problems and resting protocols. Rolling the dice on captain Samu Kerevi, who was widely believed to be scheduled for a rest this week under the Wallabies workload policy, paid off. But it means he is likely to miss a home game, most likely in a fortnight against the last-placed Sunwolves.

Jack Hardy's exit from the game with a knee injury could be a major blow to a team already missing backline players Jordan Petaia (foot) and Filipo Daugunu (broken arm) to longterm injuries. Hardy, Isaac Lucas and Fraser McReight are among Junior Wallabies who will be involved in the Oceania U20 campaign and unavailable next week as well as for the Sunwolves match.

Hamish Stewart is caught by a Sharks defender in the Reds' 21-14 win in Durban. Photo: AFP

5. Plenty of room for improvement

Getting the South African monkey off their back is a massive achievement for the Reds but the win in Durban cannot paper over the fact that the Sharks were their own worst enemies and there remains ample opportunity for them to improve. The Sharks made more metres, had more carries, beat more defenders and had to make fewer tackles than their rivals at Kings Park but were still unable to get the points.

"Winning ugly" has been a goal for the Reds and grinding out the victory on the road was worthy of praise. Passages of play are improving, combinations are continuing to develop and there are signs of improvement. But the Reds are far from the finished produce and need to play with this desperation every week to continue the impressive upswing.