McKenzie aims for "double win" against Chiefs
April 9, 2013
Ewen McKenzie's Queensland Reds boast a good recent record against the Chiefs © Getty Images
Queensland Reds mentor Ewen McKenzie has challenged his players to claim a "double win" by downing Super Rugby ladder leaders the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
Far from downplaying the importance of the clash with the reigning champions, McKenzie said the game would tell the fourth-placed Reds a lot about their character.
"I mightn't show it but I am very enthusiastic about this game," said McKenzie, who celebrated becoming Super Rugby's most capped coach with a breakthrough 34-33 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin last month.
"When you play the teams above you on the ladder, they're the ones who make a difference. If you beat them, it's like a double win."
The Reds have a good recent record against the Chiefs, beating them in the past three seasons, including during their 2012 title campaign when Sonny Bill Williams was their gun player.
"We intend to defend that record having already enjoyed a couple of good wins the last two times we've travelled over there," said McKenzie. "You benchmark yourself against the best side and they're the incumbents and they are performing well. These are the games you really find out about your character as a team, also your character as individuals."
Half-back Will Genia, who used the Reds' bye last weekend to get married, rated the Chiefs an improved outfit this season even as they attempt to defend their title without Williams.
"They're an exceptional side," said Genia. "You could even say they're better this season to some extent having morphed and evolved and continued growing as a team. Our best chance is to keep the ball for long periods and starve them of possession, but they are the kind of side when they do have the ball they like to throw it around so you can force mistakes."
McKenzie said match-winning winger Digby Ioane (knee) would miss the clash though he was one of several players getting close to returning from injury.
"They're all getting close," he said. "Samo (Radike Samo) is not right yet but not far away, Beau Robinson and (Nick) Frisby are the same and (Chris) Feauai-Sautia is looking much better. Luke Morahan has got a cracked rib, so he won't be available."
Ioane had a run on Monday but McKenzie said with several more big games looming there was no need to rush his comeback.
"We've got a lot of games to play in a tough patch and there's no point taking guys out there 80 or 90 per cent fit if we can get them 100 per cent," he said. We've got enough depth to cover them until we get them back to that level."