They’re big shoes to fill but flame-haired Queensland Reds rookie Campbell Magnay has been backed to make an impact as Samu Kerevi’s replacement for Friday night’s daunting Super Rugby away clash with the Crusaders.
Wallaby-in-waiting Kerevi will miss the next month of action due to a broken hand and the Reds sprung a surprise on Thursday by naming 19-year-old Magnay at outside centre.
Rather than opting to shift versatile Karmichael Hunt from fullback, Magnay has been given the chance to build on the six appearances he made for the Reds last year.
The youngster is an aggressive 195cm, 98kg brute who lives for contact, has pace to burn and once had NRL clubs lining up for his signature, including Brisbane, who he turned down to stick with rugby union and the Reds.
A former Australian Schoolboys representative, he was a standout in the recent Super Under-20s Championship and would have lined up for Australia in their match against the New Zealand under-20s this week if it weren’t for his Reds call-up.
Interim co-coach Matt O’Connor is excited to see what happens when Magnay is thrown into the deep end against the in-form Crusaders, who the Reds have only beaten once before in Christchurch – nearly two decades ago.
“That was part of the selection. It’s going to be physical, a pretty tough contest for the 80 minutes and he’s shown through his training with us and the 20s that he’s happy to mix it,” O’Connor said.
“He brings youth, he brings enthusiasm, he brings a tough physical edge.
“That will be looked upon with interest tomorrow night.”
Kerevi was distraught when he suffered his hand injury in last weekend’s win over the Cheetahs and O’Connor said he was “gutted” not to be travelling to Christchurch.
But the silver lining is he should be fit for next month’s three-Test series against England, when he could make his Australia debut.
“Unfortunately injuries are part of the sport. You’ve got to get over those disappointments and come back stronger,” O’Connor said.
“He’s been the strike weapon over the last month or so that’s got us over the gain line and made line breaks for us. We’ve got some work to do to fill that void.”
The in-form Crusaders have lost just once this season and are second in the New Zealand conference.
While they will be without suspended winger Nemani Nadolo, they do have five former or current All Blacks to call upon.
“They’re back to playing the Crusaders rugby that we’ve seen over the last decade,” O’Connor said.
“They ask a lot of questions and you’ve got to be good enough to answer them.”