Sydney - Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is confident his resurgent side can advance
through the finals with or without flyhalf Quade Cooper, whose
appearance before the judiciary on Monday will determine whether he plays
Cooper was sin-binned and later cited for a high tackle on Berrick
Barnes in the 63rd minute of the Reds' final-round clash with the
Waratahs in Brisbane on Saturday.
If found guilty of making contact with Barnes above the line of the
shoulders, there is a chance Cooper will miss the Reds' home-ground
play-off with the Sharks this weekend.
Former Wallaby Tim Horan said on Sunday the Reds could not win without
their mercurial five-eighth, who has only recently returned from a long
But McKenzie said the side had managed without Cooper before and could
do so again if necessary. ''There's no doubt that Quade makes a
difference for us, [but] Quade's played in three games and two
half-games and we've won 11 and we're in the finals, so we've had to do a
lot of it without Quade anyway,'' he said.
Cooper would be the Reds' flyhalf against the Sharks ''in the ideal
world'', McKenzie said, but the side could survive without him.
''We had a great win against the Chiefs here [in round 12] and Quade
wasn't playing - Benny Lucas was at 10. So we've had to manufacture and
work out our plans B, C and D. We got to [plan] F at one point in the
10 position. It's something you deal with as coach and as a playing
The Reds pulled off the upset of the Australian conference by slipping
past the Brumbies with a bonus-point win against the Waratahs to make
the finals after a horror start to their season, which included a raft
of injuries to anyone who pulled on the playmaker's jersey.
Their path from now is tough. The Reds played and lost to all the other
finalists this season except the Chiefs, whom they beat 42-27 in May.
The Sharks disposed of the Reds 27-22 in Durban in round four,
fighting back from 17-0 to win, while Reds wing Digby Ioane was in the
sin bin and two flyhalfs fell to injury. McKenzie said the squad
would relish the chance to ''square the ledger'' against the Sharks at
home this weekend and against the other finalists.
''If you want to win the competition you've got to be able to beat
everyone, and those teams we haven't beaten yet, so if we get a chance
to play them again it's fantastic,'' he said.
''We back ourselves against those teams, you don't win every game and we
haven't won those ones, and we want to turn that around. The Sharks is a
good place to start.''
McKenzie had little sympathy for the Brumbies, who led the Australian
conference all season before losing to the Bulls on the same weekend
that the Reds beat the Waratahs five tries to two.
''You've got to persist. If you persist you'll eventually get some
luck. We haven't had much - there's not many games that went our way in
the last four weeks or three weeks, a couple went our way this weekend
but you've got to … keep winning. We've won and in the end we had a
much harder task than the Brumbies did at the weekend, and we got
through our task and they didn't.''
However, the judiciary hearing over Cooper's alleged high tackle is
robbing McKenzie of important preparation time, including homework on
the Sharks, which he said was frustrating.