Not that they needed one, but the Queensland Reds have received a warning shot from Fijian Drua’s momentous defeat of the Crusaders.
An after-the-siren kick got the Drua home against the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions in Lautoka on Saturday and the tremendous buzz generated by that result will carry all the way to Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Drua’s lack of late-game composure was all that denied them a huge upset in Brisbane last year at a ground that has been a stronghold for the Reds under coach Brad Thorn.
The Reds were up 28-9 with 18 minutes to play but needed a series of miracle plays from their own Fijian star Seru Uru to escape with a 33-28 victory.
“You look at that game, (we had a) comfortable lead, sniffing for bonus points, took our foot off the gas and suddenly we were at risk of losing the match,” Reds backrower Liam Wright reflected on Tuesday.
“And that’s how quickly they can turn it.
“(Victory against defending champions the Crusaders) showed that they’re really here to compete.
“Last year they were a really tough opponent but that showed the level they’ve stepped up too…they’re ready to finish games, which is where they fell apart a bit last year.
“It’s just a warning sign really.”
Moana Pasifika side named for Leali’ifano Canberra homecoming
Meanwhile, this Saturday will mark the third consecutive week Moana Pasifika have spent in Australia after meeting the Chiefs during Super Round in Melbourne and the Western Force in Perth.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Christian Lealiifano who will face the Brumbies at home for the first time after dedicating thirteen years of his life to the proud franchise. He made his debut in 2007 and departed in 2019, amassing an incredible 150 games for the Brumbies.
In Moana Pasifika’s last game of the 2022 season, they recorded a 32-22 win over the Brumbies at Mount Smart Stadium, so this match promises to be an entertaining spectacle given recent history.
The Brumbies are one of two undefeated teams in the 2023 DHL Super Rugby Competition and in second, beneath the Gallagher Chiefs. Moana Pasifika travel to GIO Stadium after a narrow loss in the 82nd minute against the Western Force, going down 21-18. This week, the team look to emulate their performance at the end of last season and cause an upset.
Head Coach Aaron Mauger has rung in the changes for this match with Manu Samoa hooker Ray Niuia receiving his first start of the year and will play inside Abraham pole and Suetena Asomua in the front row.
After making his Super Rugby debut from the bench last weekend, Potu Leavasa has been handed his first start and will combine with Mike McKee to complete the engine room.
Alamanda Motuga returns from a hamstring injury and will play in the number 7 jersey with the ever-impressive Miracle Faiilagi retaining his spot at blindside flanker. Lotu Inisi will anchor the scrum at 8 after a dominant performance against the Western Force.
Christian Leallifano returns to captain the team after being omitted from the squad last week due to concussion. He will combine with Ereatara Enari at halfback.
Fine Inisi was named Man of the Match after a stellar performance at centre against the Western Force and moves to the right wing to make way for Levi Aumua. Aumua will combine with Danny Toala for the first time since their round one clash against the Fijian Drua.
With a competition high 28 defenders beaten in three games, Timoci Tavatavanawai will shift from the right wing to the left with William Havili named at fullback.
Moana Pasifika v Safeguard Global ACT Brumbies
Saturday 18th March, kick off 7:35pm
1: Abraham Pole
2: Ray Niuia
3: Suretena Asomua
4: Potu Leavasa
5: Mike McKee
6: Miracle Faiilagi
7: Alamanda Motuga
8: Lotu Inisi
9: Ereatara Enari
10: Christian Lealiifano (C)
11: Timoci Tavatavanawai
12: Danny Toala
13: Levi Aumua
14: Fine Inisi
15: William Havili
Reserves: Samiuela Moli, Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Alex McRobbie, Solomone Funaki, Manu Paea, Henry Taefu, Anzelo Tuitavuki.