The Brumbies will beat the Reds in Canberra on Friday if Tevita Kuridrani has a blinder, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Brumbies have dominated the Reds since 1996, winning 18 matches with just five defeats and a draw. And they will be hoping the trend continues in order to get a head start in the Australian conference this year.
With a string of excellent performances, Kuridrani has established himself as the best outside centre in Australia, with Adam Ashley-Cooper the only real challenger for that status. The rampaging midfielder was at the forefront of the Brumbies' push for a place in the play-offs last year and with an inexperienced, though star-studded, Reds backline travelling to Canberra for this weekend's clash, there's a window of opportunity for the 23-year-old to wreck havoc again, like he did prior to the ankle injury he suffered against Ireland in November.
His strong and direct running will test the likes of league convert Karmichael Hunt and Chris Feauai-Sautia and should he manage to outfox them on the day, the Brumbies will be well set to build on their solid showing in 2014.
In contrast, the Reds will look at this game as the first step on the road to redemption, following a horrid set of results in 2014 that ended with 11 losses and five victories. However, Richard Graham's men can take heart from the fact they beat the Brumbies by 10 in the corresponding fixture last year, although they relied heavily on the Will Genia-Quade Cooper axis then.
Now Hunt has been singled out to stand in for the injured Cooper and while he fared admirably in their two pre-season games, that resulted in a 28-13 loss to the Rebels and 35-12 win over the Crusaders, little can be read into matches played against understrength outfits.
The Brumbies head into the clash on the back of a 31-21 defeat away to the Rebels, followed by a 24-19 loss at home against the Highlanders. But while the results make for bad reading, Stephan Larkham and co can be particularly pleased with Kuridrani's brace against Highlanders in his first competitive match since injury.
The stage is set for Kuridrani to prove that he will be the Brumbies' main strike weapon this season, while Hunt will be eager to show he can act as permanent back-up for Cooper ahead of the injured James O'Connor.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 18, Reds 5, Draw 1
In Canberra: Brumbies 10, Reds 3
BRUMBIES STATS THAT MATTER
214 – The number of lineouts the Brumbies won in 2014 (Rank 2)
52 – The number of tries the Brumbies scored (Rank 2)
1,819 – The number of tackles they made (Rank 3)
19 – The number of lineout the Brumbies stole (Rank 6)
101 – The number of clean break they made (Rank 5)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ita Vaea, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Reds – 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Karmichael Hunt, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 Marco Kotze, 4 James Horwill, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Duncan Paia'aua, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images