Super Rugby 2017: Reds v Force Preview


We preview Friday's Round 14 Super Rugby clash between the Reds and the Force.

Australia’s Super Rugby challenge has been utterly appalling this term. SANZAAR’s decision to exclude one of their franchises ahead of next season must surely be seen as a blessing in disguise; it is all too clear that the nation simply does not have the depth to field five competitive sides. This Friday, the Reds host the team most likely to face the axe in the Western Force, who come off the back of a 49-point demolition from the Highlanders.

Reds v Force | Friday 26 May | Suncorp Stadium | 11:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Reds 9/20 | Draw 22/1 | Force 16/10
Reds (+5.5) 9/10 | Force (-5.5) 9/10

Three wins from eleven matches for the 2011 champions. Abysmal. And yet the Brumbies, who lead the way in Australia, have just one win more. What has happened to these fallen giants? The franchise never seemed to recover from Ewen McKenzie’s exit a few seasons ago, but few could predict the degree at which the side from Brisbane would deteriorate. Taking into account the Waratahs’ Super Rugby success in 2014 to where they now find themselves, it would appear that Australia’s strongest franchises battle to maintain their superiority over prolonged periods of time. Abbreviating the competition next year may just have come at the best possible time for the game in Australia.

Nevertheless, the Queenslanders welcome the stumbling Force to Suncorp this Friday, in a match they would expect to win. Their entertaining 24-29 defeat of the Rebels a fortnight ago showed they still have a measure of class within their ranks (Quade Cooper’s contribution, in particular, was delightful to watch), and the likes of Samu Kerevi and Karmichael Hunt will be licking their chops at an opportunity to have a run at one of the worst-organized defences in the competition. The backs should manage a good few five-pointers this Friday, especially coming off a bye-week.

The Force must surely be shown the door ahead of next year. I’d ordinarily opt for the Rebels given their rotten run this season, but since they are privately owned, it would seem that the side from Perth are more likely to be not-so-subtlety escorted to the exit. Their performance at home against the Highlanders lacked energy, heart and (perhaps most importantly) direction. The players are certainly not making it easy for the Western Force Rugby Union to make a compelling argument for their continued inclusion in the competition, with missed tackle after missed tackle last week eventually culminating in their dreadful loss.

A win at Suncorp is definitely possible; especially considering that each Aussie franchise has been as disappointing as the next in 2017, but the Highlanders result may have knocked the stuffing out of David Wessels’ charges. They, more than anyone else, will need the June international break to reconsolidate their game in a bid to finish the season as strongly as possible. With their defensive showing last week, however, I wouldn’t back them to issue a turnaround as early as Friday; especially not against a Reds side that has shown it can still manage a good try or two off quick phase ball.

Verdict: Reds (-5.5) 9/10
While the Suncorp Stadium may not be as much of a fortress as it was to the Reds in the past, they should still manage to outplay the Force there this Friday. The Force leaked eight tries last week, and Cooper and his backs will be playing as expansively as possible to earn their fair share this weekend too. The Force may manage a few tries on the counter, but their defence will simply not hold out.

Written by Shaun Goosen for!

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