Queensland can set up their Super Rugby season with a rare double on the road in South Africa like they did in 2011, according to centre Mike Harris.
Queensland Reds centre Mike Harris has underlined the importance of Queensland ending their South African rut when they meet Super Rugby’s pace-setting Sharks this weekend.
The Reds are without a win in the Republic since sweeping both the Stormers and Lions in their charge to the 2011 championship and face a major test of their capabilities and composure in Durban.
While making the play-offs in the past two seasons, Queensland title hopes nosedived as they were rattled by hostile South African environments and fell to the Sharks and Bulls in 2012 and were upset by the Stormers and Cheetahs last year.
Harris, back at inside centre where he played beside Quade Cooper in 2011, said successive wins over the Sharks and Lions, on Sunday week in Johannesburg, would be a “massive” boost to their 2014 aspirations.
“The last time the Reds had a couple of wins in South Africa it was 2011 and that was the year we went on to win the title,” he said.
“Any win in South Africa is huge so we’re not looking anywhere past this week, but it’s a very tough place to win and a very hostile environment and crowds.”
The influence of home ground advantage was no better shown than in 2012 when the Sharks rode on the momentum created by a frenzied crowd at Kings Park after the Reds jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half.
The home side was nigh-on unstoppable in the second half as they overpowered Queensland 27-22.
The Reds (2-1) have not beaten the Sharks in Durban since a error-strewn 6-5 victory in 2004, and Jake White’s team – boasting a Sprinbok-laden pack – will start as strong favourites following convincing wins over the Bulls, Hurricanes and Lions.
“They are definitely one of the top teams in the competition,” Harris said.
“We’re taking it as a massive challenge but also a great opportunity to build on our performance (in the 43-33 win over the Cheetahs).
“Although we were happy with some things, we probably leaked too many points against the Cheetahs and if we do that against the Sharks it won’t be a good night for us.”