Aaron Smith will get the better of an off-colour Will Genia as the Highlanders look to maintain their play-off push, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
It was not too long ago we were speaking of Genia as the finest scrumhalf in the world, while Smith was the great pretender, a bit wet behind the ears.
Last season was a very different story though, as the former Wallabies captain copped a fair amount of criticism for his performances against the British & Irish Lions, while Smith received all the plaudits for his crisp service, sniping runs and tactical ingenuity. This season has been a continuation of that trend.
While there are still elements of Smith's game that need polishing (stats below), he is the most-rounded of the scrumhalves plying their trade in Super Rugby.
The Reds are looking to snap a six-game losing streak in Brisbane, but without the injured Quade Cooper, there really isn't much to this Reds outfit. They sit bottom of the overall log, and rightfully so. The Reds may have won the last three meetings between the two, but there is very little to suggest they can stop the rot here.
James Slipper will return at prop for the Reds in place of the injured Ben Daley in the only change among the forwards. Ben Lucas starts in place of the crocked Cooper, while Rod Davies gets a run on the left wing.
For the Highlanders, Liam Coltman takes over from Ged Robinson at hooker, while Ma'afu Fia gets a start at tighthead prop. In the back row, Elliot Dixon has been benched in favour of Gareth Evans.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 8, Highlanders 9
In Brisbane: Reds 7, Highlanders 2
SMITH'S STATS THAT MATTER
26 – The number of tackles he's missed (Rank 1)
4 – The number of tries he's scored (Rank 16)
12 – The number of offloads he's made (Rank 21)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Reds – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images