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The St.George Queensland Reds are stuck at loggerheads with three other Australian teams on three wins apiece for the 2017 Super Rugby season after 12 rounds, but with a week off in Round 13 they’ll be playing catch up as they look to snatch a guaranteed position in the post-season with a first-place finish in the conference.
The Reds will be keeping it local for their final four games of the season as they make a tilt at the play-offs, and they’ll have every chance to do so with a favourable run against two teams each from Australia and New Zealand.
The Reds’ first game back after a week off will be against the Western Force. While they’ve won just three of their last 10 games against the Western Australian club, they have managed to take competition points from four further games in that span including a draw and three tight losses. The Reds’ last Australian derby saw them bag a five-point win against the Rebels and they’ll now be looking for back-to-back wins against Australian teams for the first time since a 22-point win against the Force in Round 16, 2015.
A trip to Samoa in Round 15 will be the Reds’ next challenge, and one they’ll be well prepared for, having lost only one of their last six games against the Blues (W4, D1). Despite trailing at half-time in each of their last three games against the Blues, the Reds have bounced back to take a win and a draw in that span.
The Queensland side’s final home game of the season will perhaps be their toughest test of the remaining four games. They’ve lost each of their last five games against the Brumbies by an average of 26 points, and their last win against them in Queensland came in April 2012.
Dunedin is the destination for the Reds’ final regular season fixture of the season, where they’ll face an opposition against whom they’ve enjoyed recent successes. They’ve won five of their last six games against the Highlanders, though the last time an iteration of this fixture was decided by more than the value of a converted try was in 2007.
One similarity between all of the Reds’ remaining four fixtures is that they will each be played on a Friday. While this provides some rigidity in routine and scheduling, it will initially feel foreign to the squad, with their last Friday fixture coming way back in Round 1 this season.
The Reds might have won just two of 11 Friday fixtures since the beginning of the 2015 season, but a two-point win against the Sharks in Round 1 this campaign means they’ll hunt to string successive Friday wins together for the first time since Round 17, 2014.
19 JANUARY 2018