Just two games into his comeback from a long-term injury, Queensland Reds winger Suliasi Vunivalu has again been sidelined.
Suliasi Vunivalu continues to be haunted by hamstring problems, with the star winger a late withdrawal from the Queensland Reds side to meet the Chiefs in Friday night’s Super Rugby Pacific clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Named in the Reds team on Wednesday afternoon, the former Melbourne Storm NRL premiership winner was ruled out less than 24 hours later by Queensland coach Brad Thorn.
Vunivalu was only two matches into his return from a serious hamstring injury that ruined his first season with the Reds last year.
While the latest setback doesn’t seem a major concern, Thorn has taken a safety-first option.
“He has a little bit of tightness around his hamstring so we’re just making sure he’s in a good space with that,” Thorn said.
“(It’s) better to be safe than sorry. We’ve just got to be smart around those things.”
Vunivalu’s misfortune has led to a selection reprieve for Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu, who had been dropped to the bench after a poor performance in Queensland’s 30-17 weekend loss to the Hurricanes.
Daugunu instead gets another starting chance, with Floyd Aubrey added to the Reds’ reserves.
Thorn’s cautious approach to players returning from injury also led to star fullback Jordan Petaia missing a second straight match with his own hamstring problem.
“He was pretty darn close to playing this week, (but) once again we’re just doing the right thing,” he said.
The Reds are intent on producing an 80-minute performance after blowing what would have been a rare win over Kiwi opposition by failing to seal the deal after leading the Hurricanes 17-0.
“If we get our game right we feel we can compete, but it’s probably just our discipline, just little things like offsides, not rolling away, and just looking after that footy as well, when to give the pass and when to be happy to carry (the ball) and look after it,” Thorn said.
“If you’re opening that door and keep on handing the ball over against New Zealand sides, you get hurt.”
The Chiefs will be without co-captain and star flanker Sam Cane, who has returned to New Zealand for the birth of his child.
Kaylum Boshier will start in the No.7 jersey in Cane’s absence, with Luke Jacobson to captain the Chiefs, who beat the NSW Waratahs 50-27 last Friday night in “Super Round” in Melbourne.
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said: “The Reds have demonstrated they are among the best teams in the competition.
“They are a well-balanced team, strong at set piece and blessed with some ‘X-factor’ players.”
Reds: Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Lawson Creighton Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Taniela Tupou, Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert. Bench: Matt Faessler, Dane Zander, Feao Fotuiaka, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Seru Uru, Spencer Jeans, Floyd Aubrey, Mac Grealy.
Chiefs: Chase Tiatia, Jonah Lowe, Alex Nankivall, Rameka Poihipi, Quinn Tupaea, Bryn Gatland, Cortez Ratima, Pita Gus Sowakula, Kaylum Boshier, Luke Jacobson, Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross. Bench: Bradley Slater, Atu Moli, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Samipeni Finau, Mitch Brown, Xavier Roe, Rivez Reihana