Reds face make-or-break clash with Force
RUGBY UNION: The phrase "a must-win game" is often overused in sport but for the Queensland Reds and Western Force, Friday night's Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium is just that.
Neither side can afford to lose, with centre Samu Kerevi knowing just how much the clash means to the Reds' chances of reaching the playoffs.
"Everyone understands the importance of it all," he said.
"Obviously we're a chance of making the finals and I thought we played a more consistent game against the Rebels (two weeks ago).
"We want to do that against the Force as well."
The Reds are seven points behind Australian conference rivals the Brumbies, with the ACT side claiming seven bonus points to Queensland's four.
With poor results for Australian sides seeming to be the norm this season, the Reds' fate is still in their own hands.
If they lose and the Brumbies beat the Jaguares in Argentina, their season will be over.
But if the results are reversed, that would put the Reds in prime position to put their noses in front as the season reaches the pointy end.
They travel to Samoa next week to face a Blues team that is set to go up against the British and Irish Lions four days later, before hosting the Brumbies on July 7 following the June break for the winter Test match series.
The Reds will need to get some positive results from those three games as they finish the campaign with what looks like a near-impossible task - a trek to Dunedin to face the red-hot Highlanders.
Kerevi is wary of the Force in what looks like being the pivotal game of the Reds' campaign.
"They've got threats right across the board and they've got a good forward pack coming out," he said.
"For us, it's about our own game and we need to get an 80-minute performance out there to solidify ourselves as a finals contender."
The Force needs a win to keep its hopes of reaching the playoffs alive, and veteran Matt Hodgson returns to captain the side.
Hodgson, who missed the win against the Jaguares with an ankle injury and was rested for last week's 55-6 hiding at the hands of the Highlanders, could be key and his battle at the breakdown with George Smith will be a highlight.
Hodgson will lead the side in the absence of captain Ben McCalman, who has fractured his shoulder.
"It's great to have Hodgo back," Force coach Dave Wessels said.
"Maybe in retrospect, if I had my time again, maybe we would have pushed Hodgo a bit harder last week and put him in there, but all of those things are great in retrospect.
"Last week we felt with the wet conditions that the bigger forward pack would make a difference physically. It didn't turn out like that."