Super Rugby Match Preview
Friday 13th July
Reds vs Sunwolves
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19h45 local time, 09h45 GMT, 11h45 SA Time
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Jordan Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore
Somewhere down at the bottom of the Super Rugby pond, in the messy soup that is the place where the also-rans of the rugby firmament live, a game is scheduled for Friday the 13th July.
The Reds play the Sunwolves in the last fixture of their respective 2018 Super Rugby seasons. Neither team has any hope whatsoever of qualifying for anything at all. The Sunwolves, even if they win the game with a try-scoring bonus point, will still take the wooden spoon home with them to add to the two they already display on their otherwise barren trophy shelf.
They sit on a meagre 14 log points, some 44 points adrift of the log leaders, the Crusaders. Even their log position, 15th, is one more than the points they have managed to scrape together in the 15 games they have played so far this year.
The Reds are two positions higher up the overall log, in 13th position with 23 points. Even a win with a bonus point will not lift them any higher on the log.
What to make of a nothing game and the end of an overly long, dreary season?
If you are triskaidekaphobic, it might be best if you stay in bed for the day and avoid looking at your television in the event of the game being broadcast on your particular cable TV service.
If you are a supporter of either team and insist that you will be watching, either live at the Suncorp Stadium, or on television, I hope you enjoy the game.
There is not much else that I can say about this fixture.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn has made two changes to his starting line-up to take on the Sunwolves in their Super Rugby clash in Brisbane on Friday.
Veteran flanker George Smith will miss what was likely to be his last professional rugby game on Australian soil as he was unable to recover from a knee injury in time for this Friday’s match, he will watch from the sidelines before heading offshore to take up a contract with Bristol Bears in the United Kingdom.
The one change to the starting pack sees versatile forward Lukhan Tui return to the starting side in the second-row, with Kane Douglas dropping out of the matchday 23.
In the backs, youngster Tate McDermott earns his first Super Rugby start at scrum-half, with Moses Sorovi shifting to the bench.
The Reds have a number of changes to the reserves, opting for six forwards and two backs.
Australia U20 lock Angus Blyth is in line to make his Super Rugby debut, after being brought onto the bench, taking the place freed up by Lukhan Tui’s promotion.
Adam Korczyk has also found a spot in the matchday 23 for the first time since Round 13, when the Reds and Sunwolves last met.
Utility back Teti Tela is also in line for a Super Rugby debut, having been named on the bench for the second week in a row.
The Sunwolves have made five changes in personnel for their final Super Rugby clash of the season against the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.
Two of those are in the backs where full-back Ryuji Noguchi and right wing Semisi Masirewa are replaced by Yoshikazu Fujita and Harumichi Tatekawa, which has caused a reshuffle for Jason Emery and Michael Little, who make the move to full-back and inside centre respectively.
In the forward pack there is a return to action for number eight for Willie Britz, who takes over from Kazuki Himeno, while Wimpie van der Walt and Yusuke Niwai come in at lock and hooker for Grant Hattingh and Jaba Bregvadze.
The Reds arrested a five-match losing streak with a somewhat surprising victory over the Rebels last weekend. Prior to last weekend’s win, they had won just one of their previous ten starts.
After losing their opening nine fixtures, the Sunwolves have won three of their last six. It is the best set of results in their woeful history.
The Japanese side also boast the best goalkicking success rate in the competition 88%.
The problem with both sides is that you never know which team will turn up on the day.
The last time the teams met, the Reds were probably at their very worst, ever. The Sunwolves chalked up their first victory of the 2018 season with a 63-28 walloping of the visitors in Tokyo back in Round 13.
But then the Sunwolves gave away 77 points just last weekend…..
I cannot find anything at all that will suggest a winner. Neither form, nor history helps…..
Home ground advantage is the only indicator in this game, so I give it to the Reds, by 7 points. But it could just as easily be the Sunwolves first away win…..
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Liam Wright, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Moses Sorovi, 23 Teti Tela
Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Yoshikazu Fujita, 13 Michael Little, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Willie Britz, 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 James Moore, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kazuki Himeno, 20 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura