St.George Queensland Reds powerhouse Radike Samo is set ignite the Reds backrow when he makes his first starting appearance of 2013 in Sunday morning’s Super Rugby clash against the Stormers in Cape Town (kickoff 1:00am AEST).
The Fijian cult hero will make his long-awaited return to the Reds line-up for what will be just his third match of the season and first since coming off the bench in Queensland’s 23-13 victory over the Rebels in March.
Injuries have limited Samo to just 30 minutes of Super Rugby in 2013 but he has since returned to peak fitness and form through strong efforts in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition for GPS.
His inclusion at No.8 marks just the second time this year that the backrow combination of Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill and Jake Schatz has been broken with rising star Jarrad Butler replacing the then-injured Gill in the Reds 23-18 victory over the Bulls in round six.
Schatz moves to blindside flanker and Quirk to the bench in a gameday squad which also features talented ball scavenger and replacement Beau Robinson.
In the backs, 22-year-old Jono Lance has regained his place at fullback after missing last weekend’s match against the Cheetahs with a shoulder problem and will see Luke Morahan shift to the wing in place of injured flyer Digby Ioane.
“Eddie has done a brilliant job for us in starting every game so far this season but Radike will bring a new dimension to the way we play and is also a fresh body to further energise the group following what has been a long stretch of matches,” Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said.
“We’re nearing the end of what has been an extremely demanding period, where we’ve played 15 games during the past 16 weeks. As such, anytime you get the chance to freshen up and bring new faces into the group at this time of the season is always beneficial.
“We also know the attributes Radike brings to the game, especially with his ball running, and that can only be advantageous against a Stormers team which has conceded the fewest number of tries in the competition to date.”
Sunday’s match will be the Reds final regular season contest against an international opponent and they will also be determined to end their two-game South African campaign on a high note following their recent loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
In their last visit to Cape Town in 2011, the Reds produced one of their best performances of the season to topple the South African heavyweights 19-6 at Newlands Stadium on their way to winning their maiden Super Rugby championship in the professional Rugby era.
“Newlands is undoubtedly one of the toughest places to play in Super Rugby but we know what it takes to win here and understand the significance it can have on our 2013 campaign,” McKenzie said.
“We’ve only got one more game after this before we break for the June Tests, so it’s crucial we get some runs on the board now before returning to Australia.”
Reds team to play Stormers
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (c)
6. Jake Schatz
7. Liam Gill
8. Radike Samo
9. Will Genia (vc)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Luke Morahan
12. Anthony Faingaa
13. Chris Feauai-Sautia
14. Rod Davies
15. Jono Lance
16. James Hanson
17. Ben Daley
18. Ed O’Donoghue
19. Eddie Quirk
20. Beau Robinson
21. Ben Lucas
22. Ben Tapuai