Reigning Super Rugby champions the St.George Queensland Reds are taking elite-level Rugby to the Sunshine Coast following the announcement of a midseason exhibition game against New Zealand’s Hurricanes at Stockland Stadium on Friday June 15.
The match will be held during the upcoming month-long break to the FxPro Super Rugby season to ensure the Reds maintain cohesion and form before they continue their charge to the finals and top of the Australian Conference.
The trans-Tasman encounter is being run by Queensland Rugby in conjunction with the Sunshine Coast Rugby Union to offer the local Rugby community the opportunity to see the resurgent Reds in action at the newly developed Stockland Stadium Sunshine Coast.
Tickets for the exhibition match will go on sale and be available for purchase in the coming weeks, with Sunshine Coast Rugby Union members and Queensland Reds members to be extended a pre-sale period.
Queensland Rugby’s General Manager of Game Development David Hanham said the decision to bring the match to the Sunshine Coast was recognition of the Union’s hard work to make rugby strong in the region, where the Reds also enjoy good support.
“The game was faced with some significant challenges two years ago and the Sunshine Coast has done a marvelous job of re-establishing itself,” Mr Hanham said.
“The opportunity to host this exhibition match is a vindication of the professionalism Sunshine Coast bring to the game and the confidence we have in their commitment to the ongoing success of the code.
“The Sunshine Coast is an important growth corridor for Rugby in Queensland and is also an area where the St.George Queensland Reds enjoy a large fanbase.
“Queensland Rugby – and their host Unions – have experienced great success in the past from taking the game to the community. Queensland Rugby is committed to this approach, which is designed to assist in growing the game.”
Sunshine Coast Rugby Union Chairman Glenn Ferguson said his Union was proud to host an exhibition match of this caliber.
“We’re grateful that Queensland Rugby has decided to bring this match to a growing Rugby Union region in their own backyard,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Being able to present the Queensland Reds and the Wellington Hurricanes to the Sunshine Coast is a tremendous boost to our community and we have no doubt the Sunshine Coast will embrace the match.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the match played during the competition’s month-long break would be crucial to the team’s preparations heading into the business end of the Super Rugby season.
“The midseason break is a new experience for everyone but we are confident the match on the Sunshine Coast against the Hurricanes will offer us a strong platform to accomplishing our goal – that being making the Super Rugby finals,” McKenzie said.
“A month off is a long time in Rugby so it’s important we don’t lose too much in terms of momentum or performance during this period. That’s why we chose the match on the Sunshine Coast as it’s critical we build on the form we are showing leading up to the break.
“I’ve also been to Stockland Stadium before and after it was redeveloped and it’s a great venue. The Sunshine Coast is a great place to bring the match to and we will be aiming to field our strongest possible lineup available to us at the time.”
Reds lock Rob Simmons said the Hurricanes would be a formidable opponent.
“Like us, the Hurricanes are on the edge of a finals spot currently, and will be looking to this match as a way to kick-start their end of season campaign,” Simmons said.
“It’s going to be a fierce battle and I’m sure the guys will be looking to extract some revenge on the Hurricanes after they were one of only three teams we lost to during 2011.
“We have a lot of supporters on the Sunshine Coast and I’d encourage them all to buy a ticket and get to the game for what should be an entertaining night of Rugby.”
The Hurricanes recorded a 28-26 victory over the Reds last season after then flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked a last minute penalty goal to inspire his side to victory.
Wellington’s Hurricanes were excluded from the Reds FxPro Super Rugby schedule for 2012 and they continue to be well in finals contention only a fortnight out from the competition’s midseason break.
In 2012 the Reds take a break from Super Rugby between May 26 and June 29 to allow for the Wallabies to take on Scotland and a three-game series against Wales.
Following the Test window, the Reds will face three crucial matches against the Rebels, Highlanders and Waratahs as they continue their bid to catch up to current Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies, any qualify for the finals.
The Reds have received significant results from taking the game to the community in the past and as recently as this year played one of their two preseason trials in Cairns.
The match at Barlow Park was a resounding success and laid a strong platform for the Reds start to their 2012 campaign, where they won three games from their opening three matches.