Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Reds limped into Gauteng on Monday, desperately looking for a solution to losing three key players ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby match against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
Well, technically just two at the moment, but it is a faite accompli that the Reds will be doing without winger Digby Ioane after being cited for a tip tackle during Saturday’s loss to the Sharks.
Both kicking sensation Mike Harris and playmaker Ben Lucas have had to return to Australia after both being forced off the field with hamstring injuries, which will see them miss a minimum of three weeks of rugby.
These problems have forced coach Ewen McKenzie to recruit two new players outside the Reds squad, who will fly into South Africa on Monday afternoon to join the team.
Joel Rapana, the former Western Force player has been playing for the Queensland A side in this year’s Pacific Rugby Cup tournament after initially making his name at the League Gold Coast Titans before making the switch to Rugby Union.
The second player to join the team is 22-year old Nathan Eyres-Brown, who has played for the Wallaby Sevens team in the IRB Sevens series.
“Losing your two healthy goal kickers and playmakers at the number 10 position is far from an ideal scenario but we’ll reassess in coming days and come up with a plan best suited for our final game on tour against the Bulls,” coach Ewen McKenzie said.
“We are extremely disappointed to have lost to the Sharks but it was arguably our best attacking performance of the season and there are a number of positives we’ll take from the match. We are heading in the right direction with how we want to play the game.”
The Reds have bucked the trend of staying at the coast, deciding on Johannesburg as their base for the match in an attempt to overcome the altitude factor.
Ioane’s fate will become known within the next 24 hours, but it's likely he will receive at least a two week ban for the tip tackle.