The SBW show will attract Brisbane’s biggest Super Rugby crowd of 2012 on Sunday but it’s Chiefs five-eighth Aaron Cruden who the Queensland Reds will watch most closely.
While Sonny Bill Williams has enjoyed a successful transition from the Crusaders to the Waikato-based pacesetters, the defending champions will target rising All Black Cruden as the dangerman at Suncorp Stadium.
Reds halfback Will Genia admitted Cruden was more influential than former NRL star Williams and in red-hot form after guiding the Chiefs to nine straight wins.
A former New Zealand under-20s star, the 23-year-old has delivered on his huge potential thanks to an unexpected World Cup call-up following injuries to All Blacks playmakers Dan Carter and Colin Slade.
“He’s obviously taken a lot of confidence from the World Cup last year and now he’s playing exceptionally well,” Genia said on Wednesday.
“He’s got the luxury of having guys like Sonny Bill and (Richard) Kahui and (Lelia) Masaga outside him, which would make any team’s job a lot easier – that’s not to take any credit away from him.
“He’s definitely a massive threat for us moving into this game and we just have to make sure we do our homework on him.”
Cruden and Williams both arrived at the Chiefs this year from other New Zealand franchises and immediately struck up a match-winning 10-12 combination under the tutelage of former All Blacks attacking guru Wayne Smith.
Drawcard Williams’ presence has Reds’ officials expecting a 35,000-plus crowd on Mothers’ Day – breaking their previous best mark this season of 34,126 for the round-three match against the Melbourne Rebels.
Although he’s continued to showcase his brilliant line-breaking and offloading with the Chiefs, Queensland will fancy their chances of nullifying the dual international at Suncorp.
Reds’ centre Anthony Faingaa quelled the red-hot Robbie Fruean in Christchurch while the Queensland backline twice last year kept Williams quiet in epic home wins over the Crusaders.
“There was a big deal made about Sonny when we played the Crusaders last year but all you have to do is tackle low and make sure you do your best to stop the offload and I guess you nullify that threat,” Genia said.
Coming off a gut-wrenching 15-11 loss to the Crusaders, ninth-placed Queensland are viewing Sunday’s match as a must-win for their play-off chances.
Wallabies halfback Genia actually believes the Reds can’t afford to lose any of their last six matches, as the Brumbies sit nine points clear on the Australian conference.
“To be a good chance, we have to win the next six which is obviously a tough ask,” he said. “But in saying that, last year we won eight in a row.”