Curse-breaking Reds eye next hoodoo
A switched-on Queensland Reds side can win five of their remaining seven matches and push their way into the Super Rugby finals for the first time since 2013.
Zealous spikes in defence and composure won't be enough because a hot-and-cold Reds run will leave them as spectators when the top eight gets down to business in late June.
It's the puzzle of consistency for coach Brad Thorn after the abundant attitude that pulsed through the hoodoo-busting 21-14 boilover against the Sharks in Durban.
The weary Reds flew into Brisbane last night for a well-deserved bye break and hopefully some reflection on just what is possible over the next two months.
"The next game will be very important," Thorn said of sustaining the rage against the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium on Friday week.
"We've got to get to a point where we have a line in the sand and say, 'We've reached a standard and we're not dropping back from that'."
"Consistency in the season is really what we're (still) after."
The Reds were excellent in beating the Brumbies and Sharks and almost upsetting the Highlanders in Dunedin in their 4-5 season so far.
There was a brilliant second half to beat the Sunwolves from 16 points down and a functional victory over the Stormers.
"Ugly" best described the losses to the Waratahs, Bulls and Melbourne Rebels while the champion Crusaders were always too classy when it mattered.
That rollercoaster still has the Reds (18 points from nine games) fighting hard to catch the Rebels (24 from nine), Waratahs (20 from eight) and Brumbies (19 from nine) in the open Australian Conference.
The Reds have limitations, for sure, but they can stick close to any side with the sort of whacking, scrambling defensive will they showed in Durban.
It made such a difference because assertive defence meant impressive flanker Liam Wright could also latch onto Sharks' ball and earn two forced penalties.
"It was the first time since the Brumbies game (on March 24) that we really stuck to our structure in defence, bashed blokes and got the advantage there," Wright said.
"It's definitely easier in my role (for pilfers) when guys are being chopped down so well."
Wright, 21, still had a South African accent in 2004 because it was around the same time he migrated from Durban to Australia as a seven-year-old.
"It was a great homecoming, especially to see a few uncles and cousins wearing Reds shirts we'd bought through a website," Wright said.
Wright and a young pack stood tall, including Wallaby lock Izack Rodda, who is the best example of little things done expertly.
"A thanks to Durban for giving me one of your lads because he had a great game, Liam Wright," Thorn said.
The squad's wing stocks have been trimmed even further with Jack Hardy (knee) on the injured list.