James Slipper has backed Queensland Reds rookie Taniela Tupou to ambush the Chiefs when he comes off the bench for the first time in front of a home crowd on Friday night.
After an impressive Super Rugby debut last week, Taniela Tupou, dubbed the ‘Tongan Thor’, looms as Queensland’s second-half secret weapon for the Suncorp Stadium clash.
With his powerful ball running and incredible 130kg frame, Tupou is exactly the type of player who can disrupt a side that some experts believe are coasting towards the competition title.
The Chiefs should know all about 20-year-old Tupou, a former New Zealand schoolboy sensation and YouTube star who signed for the Reds amid an international wrangle for his signature two years ago.
But what they won’t know is how to stop him once he gets going, Slipper said.
“Most of us at the Reds don’t really enjoy tackling him. He is a big boy, very powerful – probably quicker than most of our backs, at 130 kilos,” Slipper told reporters on Thursday.
“That sort of physicality, he’ll bring naturally. I don’t think we need to hype him up too much.
“He just needs to be confident and comfortable out there. His natural instincts will take over and he’ll play a good game.”
Tupou is on a loaded Reds bench that also includes fellow rising star Lukhan Tui, energetic back-row recruit Leroy Houston and experienced centre Anthony Fainga’a, who will all be called upon to help reverse Queensland’s worrying trend of fading out in the final 20 minutes of games.
“That’s probably the most important part of the game, that’s when we want our reserves to come on and really finish strong,” Slipper said.
But giving the Chiefs a sniff in any part of the game is wrought with danger.
“I think if we’re going to be a chance tomorrow and play a good game, we want to come out and start well, put the points on the board and put the Chiefs under pressure,” Slipper said.
“That’s when we play our best rugby – when we’re not playing catch-up rugby, we get out in front and keep moving forward.”
The Chiefs have rested All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, and will start his Test teammate Sam Cane in an unfamiliar position at No.8 for the first time in his career.