Reds would love to upset Sharks

2009-03-12 00:00

THE Reds, ravaged by injury, have something of a baptism of fire tomorrow against a Sharks’ line-up with a strong international flavour.

Only three members of the Sharks pack and one from the backline have yet to represent the Springboks, while the Reds have been forced to include a number of rookies in their side for tomorrow’s Super 14 clash in Brisbane, having made seven changes to last week’s starting lineup.

It’s tough not to back the Sharks.

One doesn’t want to appear over-confident, but does Ben Daley, at 20-years’ old with a cumulative total of just 10 minutes of Super 14 game time really worry Bok captain John Smit, his opposite number in this match?

The engine room is where it all happens and for a Sharks’ and Springbok front row with a total of 166 Super 14 caps between them, the suggestion is that the Reds could be in for a torrid time.

Only hooker Sean Hardman — with over 100 caps — has experience, while the props on either side of him, Daley with one Super cap, and Laurie Weeks in his rookie season, could have their work cut out for them. Weeks is 22-years-old, wing Blair Connor is 20 and reserves Rodney Davies (19) and Jack Kennedy (21) show the youth of this Reds team.

Some of the Sharks’ backs are also in their early 20s, but given their experience at the highest level, including a victorious Rugby World Cup campaign, it’s the lack of experience among the Reds’ youth that could be their undoing.

Despite the apparent lopsided nature of the two line-ups, Sharks’ coach John Plumtree is only too aware of the need to maintain the same kind of intensity, the mental as well as physical application and fortitude that has earned them their 100% success rate so far in this tournament to prevent an upset.

“What we are seeing is that the challenges we are facing are really intense because the opposition know that we are a strong all-round team. So their efforts go up and ours must stay up there as well,” Plumtree said.

How does the Sharks’ team approach a Reds team giving their all with the youngsters trying to prove a point?

“It is a different challenge, but we’re not reading too much into that. We’re just trying to stay focused on what we want to achieve and up our standards in the areas we’ve identified.”

Despite the odds stacked against them, Reds coach Phil Mooney believes his team have the ability to cause what would be a massive upset by beating the Sharks.

“One thing I think we’ve seen over the past couple of years is when we’ve given young guys an opportunity, they’ve really lifted themselves and there’s no bigger opportunity than against an undefeated Sharks team.”

Kick-off: 11.05 am (SA time) tomorrow.

Reds team: Mark McLinden, Blair Connor, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes (capt), Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas; Leroy Houston, Daniel Braid, Scott Higginbotham, Hugh McMeniman, Adam Byrnes, Laurie Weeks, Sean Hardman, Ben Daley.

Reserves: Saia Faingaa, Jack Kennedy, Ezra Taylor, Poutasi Luafutu, Will Genia, Anthony Faingaa, Rod Davies.

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