Bouncing back with a win after your character has been publicly questioned is easy.
Maintaining that same level of performance the week after, when there’s no pride to scrap for? That’s a whole different ball game, as the Queensland Reds are discovering.
The Super Rugby battlers are aware that one swallow doesn’t make a summer – and it certainly doesn’t make up for the consistent horrors of a season that, once it’s over, will be quickly consigned to the history books and never spoken of again in the back halls of Ballymore.
Captain James Slipper needs no reminder that last week’s breakthrough win over the Melbourne Rebels will mean next to nothing if Queensland falters against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
“It’s pretty much been all about backing it up,” Slipper said.
“We did a good effort on the weekend and it’s about replicating that and doing it again.
“We’re an organisation that strives for consistency and it’s a good opportunity to prove that.”
For once, the rugby gods may be on their side.
Embattled coach Richard Graham has made just one change to the side that thumped the Rebels – and it was forced, with winger Lachie Turner (concussion) swapping out for Chris Kuridrani.
Wallabies star Quade Cooper could have played, as he has recovered from his fractured shoulder blade, but the Queensland coaching staff have taken a conservative approach to his comeback and he will be primed to face the Western Force next week.
The continuity of personnel will help a Reds forward pack maintain their strong run of form against one of the biggest sides in the competition.
“The Africans, and especially the Sharks – they’re a big pack,” he said.
“Their scrum’s pretty powerful and they’re a very experienced front row too.
“It’s a Springbok front row and it’s going to be a good test for us, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.”
The Sharks have lost their last six matches and are out of finals contention, but the Reds of all teams know to be wary of a wounded opposition.
“They seem to have had quite a similar season to us – a lot of injuries, suspensions, and they do have a lot of great players,” Slipper said.
“You don’t normally see the Sharks down in the second half the ladder but we’re fully aware they are a very strong team and when they turn it on, they can really turn it on.”