His off-field indiscretions may have cost him his vice-captain’s role but Queensland Reds recruit Karmichael Hunt says he still sees himself as a leader at the Super Rugby club.
Hunt will line up for the first time in the fullback position he was initially recruited for by the Reds in Saturday’s (Sunday AM AEST) daunting away clash against the Bulls in Pretoria.
The code-hopping star, who has only made two appearances for the Reds after being suspended for six weeks due to his conviction on cocaine possession charges, is excited about the challenge of finally getting to don the No.15 jersey.
Hunt was stripped of his leadership role following his appearance at a Gold Coast court but says he’ll still do all he can to assist captain James Slipper and halfback Will Genia against the Bulls.
“I’ve just got to, obviously, play some good footy but lead vocally as well,” Hunt said.
“That’s something I do naturally and enjoy doing.
“I’ll be helping marshall the troops.”
The Reds, with just one win from seven starts this season and a paltry 71 points to their name, face a huge task to overcome the Bulls.
No Australian team has won a regular-season match at Loftus Versfeld since 2007 while the Reds’ last success at the venue came way back in 2001.
Adding to their woes, James O’Connor has been ruled out with a recurrence of his calf injury while Quade Cooper (shoulder), Jake Schatz (elbow) and suspended James Horwill haven’t even travelled to South Africa.
Hunt says he has been preparing as best he can during the week for the aerial barrage he’s anticipating in the thin atmosphere of South Africa’s Highveld.
“The ball is going to be flying playing at altitude so I’ll probably be standing a little bit further back position-wise,” Hunt said.
Lock Rob Simmons will make his return from a nerve injury in his shoulder in place of Horwill in the other major change to the Reds team that lost to the Rebels in Melbourne last weekend.
The Bulls have made two changes to their team with Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss rested while fit-again Arno Botha replaces Hanro Liebenberg at flanker.
Flip van der Merwe has also been named on the bench as he makes his return from a long injury lay-off due to a pectoral muscle tear.