Super Rugby 2013 Team Preview – RedsAuthor: Nick | Filed under: Team Previews
The Reds had a mixed 2012 season in defense of their 2011 crown. After consecutive thumpings at the hands of the Bulls and Force (yes, the Force!) they looked like turkeys primed for stuffing. Then in stepped the hot-stepper Quade Cooper who returned from injury and the Reds went on a dream run of 6 wins culminating in the shock dethroning of the Brumbies from atop the Aussie conference. All 6 of the Brisbane side’s defeats had Ben Lucas standing in at fly half including their playoff loss to the Sharks where Quade sat on the sidelines after bruising Berrick Barnes’s neckmeat. The Genia-Cooper combination is vital to the Reds success; and that’s their problem.
Will Genia played every minute last season marshaling the troops and barking out orders like a modern day Napoleon. This season he’ll miss at least the first month while recovering from knee surgery, and boy will he be missed. The Reds backline possesses dangerous runners in Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley, but it’s Genia who directs the show. There will be added responsibility on the play-making of Cooper who has things other than rugby on his mind right now. The hot-stepper will be stepping in the ring to fight an insurance broker on the undercard of SBW’s match with the White Buffalo in just a few hours.
The major loss in the forwards was try-scoring machine Scott Higginbotham who ran away to the Rebels. The return of captain James Horwill is a big boost for the Reds in light of Higginbotham’s line-out ball winning ability. The Reds have the strongest tight-five of the Australian franchises boasting Wallabies in every position. James Hanson and Saia Faingaa are both top-notch hookers and individually would be a fantasy dream but being on the same team makes them risky business. Adding the likes of Ben Daley, James Slipper, Rob Simmons and Horwill to pack down, the Reds shouldn’t be short of go-forward ball.
Players to Watch
James Slipper (12m) was a standout last season winning the Pilecki medal for Reds player’s player of year. The Wallaby prop played every game last season and scored 3 tries.
Dom Shipperley (1om) was the top try-scorer for the Reds last season crossing the chalk 8 times. The price tag is also reasonable considering his teammate Ioane is coming in at 11 million.
Mike Harris (9.5m) is deadly accurate with the boot and will be a tidy bargain if he’s given the kicking duties but the jury is still out on that one.
Quade Cooper (12m), despite playing very little last season is still the most expensive Reds player. There’s no doubt Cooper’s ego will insist on him kicking but if Harris gets the nod Cooper will need to pile on the tries and assists to make him worth forking out all that fake money.
Radike Samo (8m): the bad news is he’s 106 years old. The good news is he’s again classed as a lock by UDT but with Horwill, Simmons and Wallace-Harrison around it’s highly unlikely that Samo will play anywhere else but 8. The departure of Higginbotham also means there’s room for another lanky back-rower to swan about on the wing poaching tries.
Got to the playoffs with a late dash but the injuries to Cooper and Horwill squashed their chances of back-to-back titles.
The Reds/Brumbies race for the Aussie Conference title will be a battle royale this year and one we’re excited to watch. The intial weeks without Genia will be crucial, especially as the teams meet in the first round. We’ll know a lot more after the game but for now we reckon there’ll be a switcharoo of last season. Reds to finish second in the Aussie Conference and just outside the top 6.
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