Reds captain Samu Kerevi has labelled tonight’s clash against the Sharks a must-win game for Queensland if they are to have any chance of turning around their Super Rugby season.
The Reds head into the match with a 3-5 season record and winless in Durban for more than a decade.
And to make their job even tougher, they face a Sharks outfit that lost the South African conference lead last week after having 50 points put on them by the visiting Jaguares.
But Kerevi has spurned a scheduled rest period to try and lead his young team to a season-defining win on the road in what could be his final chance to win in South Africa.
With odds firming Kerevi will head to Japan following the World Cup, the form centre is out to make a mark on his team as they attempt to move up the Australian conference ladder.
“In pretty important for our squad and in terms of the season, it’s a must-win game for us to set ourselves up for the back-end of the season,” Kerevi said.
“It’s something that we’re looking forward to for the challenge.”
Kerevi put last week’s disappointing showing against the Bulls partly down to the Reds’ “mindset” during the match and said they had worked hard to turn things around against the Sharks.
“It was very disappointing last weekend against the Bulls,” he said.
“We prepared well but it was just a mindset thing as we came into the game, we weren’t switched on and as mentally prepared (as we should have been). We want to nullify that for this weekend.”
Part of that will be maintaining enough accuracy, consistency and patience to work into the game against the Sharks, something attack coach Jim Mackay conceded did not happen last week.
“The interesting thing is the three South African teams (we play consecutively) have got very similar defensive systems,” Mackay said.
“(Against) the Stormers, we managed to get into our game but then the Bulls, through lack of accuracy – and you’ve got to give them some credit too – we couldn’t get into our game and ended up getting quite narrow, which isn’t us.
“So that’s what we’ve looked at really closely.
“We won the ball but then you’ve got to be able to retain it and create some quick ball and that’s where we let ourselves down.
“We’ve got to be better than that. You need a bit of kicking variety and a bit of balance in the way you play in attack.
“We ended up getting quite one-dimensional against the Bulls which isn’t good.
“There was a bit of shine for a couple of minutes but you need it for longer.”
The Reds have gone to great lengths to avoid using their youth as an excuse this season but their inexperience and impatience was on show last week as they attempted a quick fix when they needed to get into an old-fashioned grind.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be able to win ugly,” Mackay said.
“We had our opportunities in the opposition 22 and we weren’t good enough just to roll our sleeves up and convert while we were down there, so that’s disappointing.
“Sometimes you can just grind out a win and win ugly but we just lacked some accuracy and some patience down there to be able to do that.”
But the Reds won’t be counted out.
Despite an awful start in Tokyo, they were able to rebound and claw their way back into the game – and eventually back-to-back wins that gave a glimpse of their potential.
And while disappointed with their showing last week, they are determined not to let it define their South African tour.
“We’ve managed to bounce back (before), so there is resilience in the group,” Mackay said.
“We are proud, we’re over here working hard and we were really, really determined for the Bulls game but for whatever reason we couldn’t transfer that on to the field.
“We’ve got to learn from the last one but the games keep coming.
Click Here: All Blacks Rugby Jersey
“We want to get something out of this game.”
The Reds take on the Sharks at Kings Park at 11:05pm on Friday, April 19, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.