Throughout his playing career, Brad Thorn was a winner. Now as a coach, his attributes are rubbing off on the Reds.
After being part of the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup win and various NRL, State of Origin, Super Rugby, NPC and Heineken Cup titles, Thorn earned his first as a coach when the Reds claimed the Super Rugby Australia title against the Brumbies last weekend.
The club will now turn their attention to the Transtasman competition, with a trip to Dunedin to meet the Highlanders on Friday night opening their campaign.
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith said Thorn was now having a clear impact on his team, after taking charge in 2018.
"We've all seen what Thorny was like as a player. His team definitely replicates that," Smith said.
"Their whole pack, just like Thorny, they very much buy in to the set piece and the love of that. About 50 or 60 minutes in [the final] was all Brumbies who probably needed to capitalise more on the points. But Thorny's mindset and as he is as a player, his team goes for 80 and we have to be well aware of that; it doesn't matter what the score is, they're going to keep fighting, keep pushing.
"Their set piece they lean on heavily, they kick pressure to you, give you the ball, and then they come and smash you, pressure you at the ruck, then from their scrum and lineout, it's very direct and very much around their physicality."
The Reds have rotated heavily for the match, with regular starting forwards Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Fraser McReight all named to come off the bench. They will be without star backs Jordan Petaia (upper leg strain) and Hunter Paisami (fractured cheekbone) due to injury, but welcome winger Suliasi Vunivalu back from his own injury issues in the 23 jersey. Petaia and Paisami are joined in the casualty ward by loose forward Harry Wilson and hooker Alex Mafi, who both sustained concussions in their win last weekend.
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Regular starting halfback Tate McDermott has been rested for the game, with 19-year-old Kalani Thomas to start in his place.
With several changes, the Reds believe they are coming into the match with the underdog tag.
However, Smith said that was not necessarily the case.
"I don't know what kind of tag we're trying to get, but we're still trying to gain respect in New Zealand. With the Reds, they've just won a comp. They can claim the underdog tag all they want, but they're the best team in Australia.
"I've played plenty of Aussie teams saying 'we're the underdogs', but they don't think that. They're not coming here thinking they're going to lose, that's just not the Aussie mentality. We know that; I've played them enough to know if you underestimate the Australians in anyway, whether that's at Super or at test level, they'll bite you.
"They have to travel a day to get here, it's going to be cold. We have to use all those things, get them on the stadium and run them around. They're a good team but we have to really take advantage of for them a short week, coming off a final, a big campaign and we've had 10 days off. We have to really show them in that first 20 what we're about."