Rugby: 'Tongan Thor' must keep cool, as Hurricanes turn up heat

Chief players hold back Taniela Tupou, after he headbutts Liam Messam at Brisbane Global Rugby Tens. Photo/Getty Images
Chief players hold back Taniela Tupou, after he headbutts Liam Messam at Brisbane Global Rugby Tens. Photo/Getty Images

Taniela Tupou painted the "niggle me" target on himself and must now resist all provocation tonight, when the Reds need him most at Suncorp Stadium.

The champion Hurricanes play with more flair than any other Super Rugby side, but they are also a team of Kiwi hardheads, who know how to probe potential weaknesses.

Testing the temperament of "Tongan Thor" will be one of their first missions, after the way he let himself down at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens in February.

The rookie prop's eagerness not to back down in a grapple with Kiwi old bull Liam Messam turned into a silly headbutt that cost him a two-week ban.

Those moments are stored away, which is why Hurricanes prop Chris Eves and co will test whether the kid has wised up or is still worth a silly penalty.

The Tupou case is a snapshot of the broader handbrake of poor discipline that the Reds have to address.

Being the most-penalised side in Super Rugby (58) is a stain, and handing the try-happy Hurricanes a bunch of quick taps and cheap metres is certain death.

The Reds are a decent team when playing 15 against 15 as shown by a tight 70-84 for-and-against when at full manpower.

They are rubbish as a 14-man or 13-man outfit. They have given up 56 points and scored just 19, when undermanned during six costly sin-binnings and Quade Cooper's red card this season.

Saturday night is a significant milestone for the 129kg Tupou in his first starting role, because Markus Vanzati (calf) has fallen to injury.

The Reds are 15-point underdogs with sports bookies, but it will be closer than that and could be one of the spectacles of the season.

The Reds have preached patience with the ball all week, which they must put into practice, so weapon Samu Kerevi can give the Hurricanes another headache.

Kerevi grabbed two tries, shed All Blacks great Conrad Smith and announced himself as a star of the future, when rattling the Hurricanes at the same venue two years ago.

You'll never shut down World Rugby's 2016 Player of the Year Beauden Barrett, but you can limit how much the Hurricanes playmaker hurts you with his acceleration and skills.

"It's no secret, they're very good off turnovers, so the less turnovers we can have, the better," Reds skipper Stephen Moore said.

"It's been a tough period, so it's really important that the group stays tight and keeps the belief we can go out and play our game well."

- news.com.au

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