Reds coach Brad Thorn has ensured his team has been working on their tackling technique. Picture: AAP
Reds coach Brad Thorn has ensured his team has been working on their tackling technique. Picture: AAP

Thorn will see red over yellow cards

Brad Thorn has demanded an end to the Reds' yellow card fever for flawed tackling so his team can make an overdue mark on Super Rugby.

Stifling the free-running Highlanders on Friday night in Dunedin would be the ideal statement and the Queenslanders must keep 15 players on the field to do it.

It was a gross failing of the 2018 Reds that they played the equivalent of two full games with 14 men because of 10 yellow cards and a red card to then-skipper Scott Higginbotham.

Most were for poor tackling technique even if players were showing the aggression that coach Thorn wants his team to stand for.

Some, like one crazy-soft sinbinning for Caleb Timu, should never have been whistled.

"It's hard work in any game when you are man down...it can't happen this season," coach Thorn said.

"We've really worked on our discipline around off-side and getting our tackle height down.

"It's all about giving less to the opposition."

The Reds’ Scott Higginbotham is sent off against the Rebels last season. Picture: AAP
The Reds’ Scott Higginbotham is sent off against the Rebels last season. Picture: AAP

No one should forget that the Reds were down to 13 men in last year's opener against the Melbourne Rebels when Higginbotham was sent off and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was sinbinned for tackles gone wrong.

Defensive taskmaster Peter Ryan is the fixer there,

On another theme, he is adamant the Reds will not be conceding the 66 tries they gave up last year because of a better rehearsed system.

Betting agency Ladbrokes may give the Reds no hope as 18-point underdogs but the Queenslanders have worked hard to sharpen their weapons.

A dominant scrum, lead by prop Taniela Tupou, can rattle the Kiwis up front.

In the backs, skipper Samu Kerevi and teenager Jordan Petaia have the makings of a superbly balanced centre pairing.

There's great thrust in that duo and Sefa Naivalu's speed is capable of producing some of the most exciting wing moments since quicksilver Rod Davies in 2011.

Reds coach Brad Thorn has ensured his team has been working on their tackling technique. Picture: AAP
Reds coach Brad Thorn has ensured his team has been working on their tackling technique. Picture: AAP

Being smart with the ball comes first and new halves pairing Hamish Stewart and Moses Sorovi are rookies when it comes to controlling a match in New Zealand.

"The experience of guys like (fullback recruit) Bryce Hegarty will be beneficial because he's a good communicator in the backline," Thorn said.

The fear for the Reds is that the team's kicking game in general play is still too flaky to deny the Kiwis the easy tries that All Black Ben Smith and co conjure from counter-attacks.

The night has plenty of significance to Thorn because his first footy dreams were shaped in the small town of Mosgiel, outside Dunedin, where he was born.

He also knows that good Kiwi teams give you nothing.

For the Reds to make a bold start, they must give the Highlanders nothing...no cheap yellow-card disasters, no irrational kicks without a good chase line and no rushed, dropped ball.