'Just another team': Reds mindset shift aims to end winless run against NZ teams
New Zealand’s dominance over their Australian counterparts throughout the various recent Super Rugby competitions has, unsurprisingly, not diminished in the latest Super Rugby Pacific format. Queensland Reds lock/flanker Connor Vest revealed that his team has spent time during their preseason directly addressing their mindset towards the Kiwi teams.
Back in 2010, the Reds rounded out a woeful six years of Super 12/14 form by losing 50-cap Wallaby Berrick Barnes to the Waratahs, only to incidentally unearth the Wallabies’ next star halves partnership of Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
Cooper and Genia guided the Reds to the Championship the following season, beating the Crusaders 18-13 in front of a record Brisbane crowd.
Since that match 12 years ago, despite the emergence of stars like Samu Kerevi and James O’Connor, the Reds have struggled mightily against their rivals from across the Tasman. In the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the Queensland side lost all six of their contests with Kiwi teams.
“We are doing a lot of work at the moment on resilience and not thinking that the New Zealand teams are better,” Vest said.
“We are just thinking that it is just another rugby team … a team of white jerseys so to speak.
“Week-in and week-out, it doesn’t matter who you are playing. We are going to go out there and play our style of footy, our brand of footy…and it is just another team.”
The Reds 2022 campaign was ended in the quarter-finals at the hands of the Crusaders. Vest’s side were in the hunt until the 56-minute mark of that match, just one point behind the reigning champs before a Richie Mo’uga try broke the game open and inspired a 21-0 run to end the match.
Vest spent part of his Super Rugby offseason in New Zealand, playing for Auckland’s National Provincial Championship team.
“It was something I dreamt of playing when I was a young kid,” he continued. “I got over there expecting a lot and got so much more than I expected.”
“The way they play the game is so quick. The way they train is something my body was not used to. Just learning … the continuous flow of the game. It is the reason why the All Blacks have been number one for so long.”
The 28-year-old’s form throughout his debut Super Rugby season was enough to earn him a contract extension, a vote of confidence from coach Brad Thorn that Vest is determined to reward as he sets his sights on a starting role.
“Now I can put my best foot forward to hopefully lock down a starting spot and rip and tear.
“We’ve got Ryan Smith, Seru (Uru) and Luke Jones. They are all very experienced players. Going up against them day-in and day-out is going to be the key.”
Vest says Wallabies omission James O’Connor has made his presence felt at Reds camp while Dave Rennies’ 44-man squad have spent the week training on the Gold Coast.
“He has been in rehab for a bit and now he has filtered back into the sessions.
“He was dropping videos in our group chat at eight o’clock last night. He is running rings around some of the younger boys. It is really good to watch.”
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