VIDEO: Rejuvenated Reds head to South Africa
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Brad Thorn has backed a rejuvenated Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to be among the men to lead a depleted Reds on their tour of South Africa.
The destructive flank was one of the side’s best in a 24-12 defeat of the Stormers this past Friday, taking them to a three-wins-four-defeats ahead of matches against the Bulls and Sharks.
It continues Salakaia-Loto’s heartening return to the game after his stepfather’s sudden passing last year led him to step down from Wallabies duty after an emotional September Test against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
His coach lost his father when he was 19 and revealed post-game that he had drawn on that experience to help the 22-year-old bounce back.
“Obviously last year the loss of his dad, I can relate to that, a similar thing happened to me at the same age,” Thorn said.
The former rugby league talent legally changed his name from Tui to honour his late father and has returned to Ballymore in 2019 with a renewed focus.
“It’s a tough thing that happened with his dad,” Thorn said.
“He had grieving time, had space, got in here [in pre-season] and … when you’re in good knick you feel good, you’re mentally in a good space.
“I thought he was outstanding [on Friday], just enjoying his rugby … he’s in a really good space.”
Queensland will be without wing Filipo Daugunu (suspected broken arm) for the South Africa trip, while centre Jordan Petaia (foot) is out for the season.
Fellow back Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring) and Angus Scott-Young (concussion) will travel after missing Friday’s game.
Australian Under-20 representatives Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Isaac Lucas and Jack Hardy will all remain in Australia on international duties.
Captain Samu Kerevi will be on the plane but had planned to be rested ahead of the World Cup, which would leave a side thin on midfield options without one of the competition’s form players.
Backs Jock Campbell, Teti Tela and Aidan Toua and forwards Adam Korczyk and Gav Luka have all been added to the 27-man squad.
Thorn acknowledged they were stretched for the Pretoria-Durban double but backed Salakaia-Loto and lock Izack Rodda, who also lost his father at the start of this season, to be among the men to fill the void.
“If we make that decision to rest [Kerevi] then it’ll be a hard guy to fill,” Thorn said.
“But that’s one of the cool things about the team; it’s not just one guy [leading].”
The squad features the matchday 23 from the win against the Stormers, minus Daugunu, Lucas and McReight.
Adam Korczyk, Teti Tela and Aidan Toua have all been brought in, while Bond University prop Gav Luka and University of Queensland flyer Jock Campbell could potentially make their Super Rugby and Queensland debuts following their inclusions.
The Reds play the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday.
They then take on the Sharks at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban the following Friday.
Forwards: Angus Blyth, Scott Higginbotham, Harry Hockings, Harry Hoopert, Adam Korczyk, Gav Luka, Alex Mafi, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Taniela Tupou, Liam Wright.
Backs: Jock Campbell, Jack Hardy, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Bryce Hegarty, Samu Kerevi, Tate McDermott, Sefa Naivalu, Duncan Paia’aua, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Stewart, Teti Tela, Aidan Toua.
Sources: @Reds_Rugby & AAP