Reds primed to break NZ Super Rugby stranglehold

Jacob Shteyman and Darren Walton |

Coach Les Kiss and the Queensland Reds are looking to cause a Super Rugby quarter-final boilover.
Coach Les Kiss and the Queensland Reds are looking to cause a Super Rugby quarter-final boilover.

The Queensland Reds have not only the Chiefs to overcome but the overwhelming weight of history in the sides’ quarter-final clash in Waikato on Friday.

No Australian side has beaten a New Zealand Super Rugby team in a play-off in the competition’s 28-year history – a troubling statistic for Reds coach Les Kiss to wrap his head around.

“That’s fairly daunting, isn’t it?” he remarked on Monday.

“I am surprised that that’s happened over a long period of time, but it’s hard to win in New Zealand. It’s hard to win in Hamilton.”

The Reds’ recent history gives them about as good a chance as any to banish the unwanted record.

This season was a watershed one for the Queenslanders, who recorded three wins over New Zealand opposition for the first time in a decade, including victories over the Crusaders and the Highlanders.

The 31-0 boilover against the Highlanders was their first shut-out win since 1999.

Kiss’s men finished one spot below the fourth-placed Chiefs but triumphed over them in their reverse fixture at Suncorp Stadium in March.

Even in their losses to minor premiers the Hurricanes and the second-placed Blues, the Reds were competitive right to the death, only falling behind after the 80th minute.

“It’s something that probably reflects that the boys are loving the way that we’re doing business at the moment,” Kiss said.

But the former London Irish coach knows how important a change of scenery can be in rugby.

“Getting that home advantage is a massive thing in finals footy, particularly with the Super Rugby Pacific,” he said.

“The travel – you’ve got to factor that into your load every week – plus you land in Auckland, you’ve got a bus trip for two and a half hours. You’ve got all those things to navigate, so it does make it difficult.

“But I’m an optimist and a realist at the same time. Things are possible, but we’re going to have to be our best, aren’t we, to break that hoodoo.”

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan started the psychological warfare early, intimidating his Sunshine State rivals with horror stories of frosty Hamilton.

“We’d much rather be here than in Queensland,” he said.

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan.
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has already started mind-games ahead of the clash with the Reds. (Bruce Lim/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s about minus-10C and raining, so they might have to bring some woollies over.”

The Reds broke a 10-year drought against the Chiefs in Waikato with a 25-22 regular-season upset last year, before falling to them in a quarter-final in Hamilton.

But the enviable record of New Zealand clubs over Australians provided no comfort for McMillan.

“I don’t know what’s more daunting; Australian teams potentially never having won a final in New Zealand, or being the first team that loses to an Australian team in a final,” he quipped.

“But look, we try not to think about those things. It’s a final – you hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and we’re preparing for the best possible Reds side.”