QR Reds’ 109 game warrior David Croft has fought his way back into the starting side for Saturday’s Investec Super 14 match against South Africa’s unbeaten Sharks in Durban.
Reds Rugby reports that the selection of Croft and hooker Stephen Moore are the two changes to the starting 15 made by Head Coach Phil Mooney following last weekend’s 24-24 draw with the Lions and in anticipation of one of the Reds’ toughest matches this season, against the second placed Sharks.
Some doubt remains over whether scrumhalf and captain Sam Cordingley can recover from a calf injury but he has been selected subject to a later fitness test.
World Cup Wallaby hooker Moore returns to the starting side to bulk up the pack, while Mooney has also reshuffled his bench to revert to a 4/3 split of forwards and backs.
Croft has come off the bench in the Reds’ last two Super 14 matches but will be unleashed against the Sharks from the kickoff.
Reds Academy rising star Poutasi Luafutu swaps jerseys with Croft to give Mooney a second half impact weapon and more options in his forward bench.
Exciting speedster Digby Ioane returns from a three match suspension at the expense of reserve winger Brando Va’aulu, while inside centre Charlie Fetoai comes back into the 22 to fill the opening for extra back on the bench, forcing out backrower Scott Higginbotham.
Mooney said wing Peter Hynes, who scored a 70 metre solo try against the Lions, retained the 14 jersey ahead of Ioane as a reward for his good recent form, while the selection of Croft and Moore should ensure a strong start.
“We have gone for Stephen (Moore) to start as we are looking for his ball running early and some physical presence at the start,” Mooney said.
“That’s no reflection on (reserve hooker) Sean Hardman, who has done everything we’ve asked of him as starting hooker over the past three weeks. We’ll still be looking for his skill and experience off the bench.
“With Crofty back in the starting team we’ll also be looking for impact from ‘Tasi’ (Luafutu) in the second half. With the 4/3 split he also covers more options in the back row.”
A scan of Cordingley’s calf showed a slight strain but Mooney wants to give his inspirational skipper more time before making the final call on whether to give Academy youngster Ben Lucas his first Super 14 match in the number 9 jersey.
Reserve scrumhalf Will Genia is flying to South Africa as emergency bench cover if Cordingley is ruled out of the Sharks match, but will come back next week if Cordingley is declared a starter for the following week’s match against the Cheetahs.
The QR Reds team is:
1. Greg Holmes, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Dayna Edwards, 4. Van Humphries, 5. James Horwill, 6. John Roe, 7. David Croft, 8. Leroy Houston, 9. Sam Cordingley (c)*, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Peter Hynes, 12. Berrick Barnes, 13. Morgan Turinui, 14. Clinton Schifcofske, 15. Chris Latham.
Replacements: 16. Sean Hardman, 17. Rodney Blake, 18. Ed O’Donoghue, 19. Poutasi Luafutu, 20. Ben Lucas, 21. Charlie Fetoai, 22. Digby Ioane.
* subject to fitnessTweet