James Hanson’s surging sideline try and a non-stop 60-minute performance hasn’t saved the Reds hooker for Queensland’s clash against the Sharks.
Queensland’s desire to beef up their scrum for what they see as the toughest assignment in Super Rugby has cost Reds cult hero James Hanson his place at hooker.
Hanson’s surging sideline try and an impressive non-stop 60-minute performance against the Cheetahs hasn’t saved the rake who has been benched for Sunday morning’s (AEDT) clash with the pace-setting Sharks in Durban.
The bearded 25-year-old has been replaced by first-choice hooker Saia Fainga’a in one of three changes to the side which piled on five tries against the Cheetahs.
Fainga’a and Wallabies prop James Slipper return to the front-row as coach Richard Graham has preferred their scrummaging ability for the intimidating battle with the powerful Sharks.
Queensland meet a Springbok front-row in Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis at Kings Park.
While the bullocking Hanson’s memorable five-pointer, beating three Cheetahs defenders on a 20m sprint to the line, was a key moment for the Reds last week, Fainga’a has fully recovered from a cork that saw him benched.
“Saia in terms of his ability as a scrummager, I feel James, Saia and Greg Holmes will do a good job for us in the scrums,” Graham explained from Durban.
“Last weekend’s match against the Cheetahs was a test of the depth in our squad.”
The Jake White-coached Sharks lead the competition with a 3-0 record and are strong favourites against a Queensland side which hasn’t won at Kings Park since 2004.
While the Reds were smashed 32-5 by the Waratahs in Sydney a fortnight ago, Graham is treating the Durban outfit as the yardstick of the competition.
“There’s no greater challenge in Super Rugby at the moment than beating the Sharks at Shark Park,” he said.
“They’re very physical and direct, not unlike the Brumbies under Jake White’s direction.”
Graham has placed a heavy importance on the work of his back-three with former Waratah Lachie Turner returning from a knee problem to join forces with Aidan Toua and Rod Davies against the kicking games of Frans Steyn and Pat Lambie.
Turner replaces Dom Shipperley on the left wing with the blazing Davies keeping his spot on the right thanks to an impressive return from a knee reconstruction against the Cheetahs.
“We realise that this game is important for us as a back three unit but we go out there with a few little plans to disrupt them a bit,” Turner said.
Queensland: Aidan Toua, Rod Davies, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Mike Harris, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Jono Owen, Ed O’Donoghue, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Ben Tapuai, Dom Shipperley.