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    Reds crown 'no fluke'

    2012-04-05 07:47

    Brisbane - Reds forward Jake Schatz has hit back at critics writing off the Reds' chances of defending their Super Rugby crown, saying there was no self-doubt creeping into Ballymore and it's absurd to think they had 'fluked' their breakthrough title.

    Three losses in a row against the Sharks, Bulls and Force, as well as a crippling injury list, has the Reds desperate to regroup in time for Friday's meeting with the Brumbies in Brisbane.

    After a pair of heavy losses in Pretoria and Perth, the Reds must show some resolve before their bye and try to salvage a win before the cavalry starts to arrive. Those reinforcements include Quade Cooper, who continues to take encouraging steps in his comeback from knee surgery.

    Enterprising play and a Cinderella back story made the Reds the darlings of the competition last season but it hasn't taken long for the detractors to emerge as they battle to replicate that sort of form.

    There is a genuine school of thought the Reds surprised the competition last year and are now being shown up as rival franchises engage plans to spoil their previously successful tactics.

    The QRU is acutely aware of that sentiment, as are the players, with Schatz bristling at the suggestion they had somehow bluffed their way to victory in 2011 and are incapable of reaching similar heights.

    "We are (the champions). That is annoying. You can't fluke a season," Schatz said.

    "There's a lot of games in the season. There's a lot of work to put in along the way. There's no fluking an entire season."

    From game one, where the Reds were listed as outsiders to beat the Waratahs despite taking out the grand final, the Reds have found themselves trying to convince pundits and fans of their worth all over again.

    There has been more speed bumps second time around but Schatz insists there is no panic among Ewen McKenzie's men. He said criticism only provided extra motivation but their main focus was digging themselves out of a slump against the Brumbies and giving hope to fans and members.

    "I suppose it does spur us on, it gives us some energy to prove some people wrong. But mostly it's about proving it to ourselves and our fans and showing the true character of the team," Schatz said.

    "It was a tough road trip but everyone's still pretty confident. We know we've got a few things to work out. But I think the boys are really keen to show their character. We're still a good team. We still believe we are a good team."

    It has been a trip back to the bad old days with the Reds conceding 106 points in their past two games. The Reds had thought those sort of scorelines were a thing of the past, which is why Schatz said it was the manner of the defeats that hurt as much as the losses themselves.

    "It's hard when you get beaten by the scorelines we have in the last couple of weeks. But one of the great things about the team is that everyone is very close and we can work through things, break the game down a little bit and concentrate on the little things in the game," he said.

    "It's always difficult to lose but once the margin gets pretty big, you look up and think 'how did that happen?'.

    "We've looked at what we've been doing wrong, just areas we need to work on. It's not something we can't fix."

    Schatz has been one bright spot during an otherwise dour run for the Reds. The rugged number eight has been a quality addition to the starting side this season and will begin to come into Wallaby discussions if he can continue to standout in coming months.

    "Getting game time, it gives you a chance to really get into the game. Starting is always much better. I'm enjoying myself," Schatz said.

    In February, Schatz spoke of his emotional season in 2011 after losing his mother Alison to cancer. He played just days after her funeral in one of the most courageous efforts seen on a Queensland rugby field.

    In other Reds news, suspended winger Digby Ioane has spoken of his frustration at a five-week ban for a desperate lifting tackle he didn't intend to pull off.

    Ioane vowed it wouldn't happen again but then shook his head when asked how he could avoid repeating the goal line bone-rattler on Sharks' flanker Marcell Coetzee three weeks ago.

    He was suspended for lifting Coetzee beyond the horizontal and then driving him, albeit without force, backwards onto the ground in a pivotal moment of the Reds' 27-22 loss in Durban.

    "Next time when I lift someone, I'll actually put them down and say you can run through," Ioane said.

    "It's hard to judge when they're running at you in your 22 and it's just in fast motion and the pressure's on. I didn't mean to lift up the bloke"

    Ioane pleaded guilty but the SANZAR judicial official saw it as a far more serious offence than the Reds who believed it was on the lower end of the scale.

    The 26-year-old still has another two matches to sit out for the struggling defending champions who sorely miss the star three-quarter's fierce ball-running and defence.

    Ioane was suspended for two worse lifting offences in 2008 which added an extra week onto his suspension and he has since worked hard to eradicate driving tackles from his game.

    Read More On:  reds super rugby

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