Prop praying to end NSW dominance
TANIELA Tupou has only been a Queenslander for four-and-a-bit years yet an unguarded moment in the dressing room has captured just how much it will mean to beat NSW.
"Tongan Thor" has rediscovered his roar at the right time to help end the damning 10-game losing streak against the Waratahs on Saturday night.
Deep inside Suncorp Stadium before kick-off, Tupou will hold the maroon fabric in front of him, ponder the history, smell it and cover his head with the jersey for a quiet moment.
Prop Tupou was surprised to find out a television camera he never knew was there captured the ritual on Fox Sports last Friday before the Reds-Rebels game in Melbourne.
"Really ... what camera?," Tupou said.
"It's me looking at that jersey, remembering all the jersey has done for me and my family and saying a quiet prayer when it's covering my head.
Rugby teams have so many transitory players these days, it's great to uncover just what loyalty to the jersey still looks like.
It's certainly a bond that coach Brad Thorn has fostered among his young players for defining nights just like Saturday.
The Reds (five wins from 11 starts) can sink without trace for the sixth successive season or guts out a turning-point victory over the vulnerable Waratahs (4-from-11).
It's that simple.
The Reds have the more forceful pack and Samu Kerevi.
The Waratahs have far superior interplay of seasoned allies like Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale putting Michael Hooper over for a try on a smart running angle in Johannesburg.
"I've never won against NSW and it's old guys like Higgers (No.8 Scott Higginbotham) who let us know how important it is that we do," Tupou said.
"I just want to win against some of the best players in Australia because it's so big for our season.
"And to finally get one over (NSW prop) Sekope Kepu before he heads to London Irish next season.
"The whole pack played well against the Rebels and I feel I'm finally back to good footy after a slow start this season."
Tupou's solid scrummaging in the 30-24 loss to the Rebels was backed up by six strong gallops, including one which ended with a try-making flip pass to Isaac Lucas.
Tupou also gave rugby it's biggest laugh in weeks.
When presented with a sideline cupcake on his 23rd birthday, he burst into an animated verse of "Happy Birthday to me" for the cameras while chomping.
The Reds must make at least two changes for Saturday night.
Fullback Hamish Stewart (shoulder) will be out which should convert to Lucas starting with a leave pass to join the Junior Wallabies in Sydney the following day.
Another strong-running line-buster is needed in the pack which means Lukhan Salakaia-Loto being rotated back in after his light 20-minute bench cameo against the Rebels.
Reds squad flyhalf Matt McGahan continues to impress now a broken leg is behind him because he played a key role in Norths' 47-13 thrashing of Easts last Saturday.
Brothers (6-0) remain undefeated leaders in Premier Rugby after a 48-20 shutout of old rivals University of Queensland.