Bookies don’t want a bar of them and their own fans are braced for the worst.
But Queensland Reds powerhouse Samu Kerevi believes the unfancied, largely no-name side can emerge as a genuine Super Rugby surprise packet this season.
Rebuilding would be the polite term for what is expected to unfold at Ballymore in 2016, with star trio Quade Cooper, Will Genia and James Horwill gone and embattled coach Richard Graham needing to get the most out of a threadbare squad to keep his job.
Centre Kerevi, however, senses the Reds are poised to prove their doubters wrong, pointing to their unheralded backline as proof.
The 22-year-old will be the most senior member of Queensland’s midfield in the Super Rugby season opener against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday, with uncapped 100kg monster Henry Taefu his partner in the centres and former NRL flyer Eto Nabuli and two-Test Wallaby Chris Feauai-Sautia on the wings.
That leaves the settled but unheralded playmaking duo of Jake McIntyre and Nick Frisby and either Japan star Ayumu Goromaru or Karmichael Hunt playing at fullback to complete a new-look Reds backline.
But all come with established combinations that have been bedded down in two seasons of the National Rugby Championship and also on the training paddock for the last six months.
“Not a lot of people know what we’re going to have,” Kerevi told AAP.
“They know the names but they don’t know how they play. They might not have a lot of Super Rugby caps, but they’re hungry.
“The trial games were pretty tough but we didn’t show too much of our hand. We’re not too focused on what everyone thinks, we’re just focused on ourselves.”
Kerevi said Hunt in particular looked a rejuvenated player, even though the code-hopper may be be demoted to a bench utility role as soon as new arrival Goromaru is fit enough to start.
“He’s definitely got a better understanding of union now,” he said.
“He’s learned a lot, especially through the NRC, just which lines to hit and how to set up other players. He’s really good at that.
“It’s healthy that we’ve got two guys who can play 15, it’s healthy competition, they drive each other.”
Kerevi was one of Queensland’s top performers last year and came close to earning a maiden Wallabies cap, having been called up by coach Michael Cheika for a number of training camps.
More international opportunities beckon if Kerevi can back it up this season but he is not getting ahead of himself.
“I guess everyone says it’s a big year for me but I’m not really focused on trying to have a big year,” he said.
“I don’t like to think ahead. I just think of the next thing I’ve got to do.”