It has been the Super Rugby season from hell for the Queensland Reds but Kiwi hardman Adam Thomson has seen enough glimmers of hope throughout to convince himself they’ve seen the worst of it.
Queensland’s two-week tour of South Africa wraps up on Sunday morning (AEST) when they will be seeking just their second victory of this campaign against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
When injury or ill-discipline has allowed them to, the Reds – despite their bottom placing on the overall ladder and abysmal -116 points differential – have occasionally looked like a side with something to say.
Two weeks ago in Melbourne with Quade Cooper on deck, the Reds were free-flowing and ambitious, at least until James Horwill’s swinging arm robbed them of a man and derailed their charge.
Even last weekend in Pretoria, they scored four tries against the Bulls, having crossed just six times in total in the previous two months.
It is nigh-on impossible to build any level of consistency given how many weekly changes coach Richard Graham has been forced to make, but Thomson is taking an optimistic view.
“I think we’ve shown some really good rugby in patches,” said Thomson, who will again don the No.8 jersey in the absence of Jake Schatz (elbow).
“But that’s our problem – it’s only been in patches.
“We haven’t really put that full performance together.
“If we can do that we’re going to be dangerous and we’re going to be winning some games.
“Right now, that’s the goal – to play that level of footy for a longer time.
“We’re trying to put that together. It hasn’t come off yet, but it’s not too far away.”
The return of Horwill (suspension) and James O’Connor (calf) will help, while Karmichael Hunt will be better for having another 80 minutes under his belt.
Finals went out of the picture for Queensland long ago but they desperately need another win if they are to avoid setting another unwanted record.
The Reds appear on course for their worst-ever season since 2007, when they picked up just two wins in a woeful year under Eddie Jones.
As the uncertainty of Graham’s tenure as coach intensifies with every defeat, it is the uncertainty of the Cheetahs’ shackle-free attack that looms as Queensland’s most immediate concern.
“They like to play with the footy, they back themselves,” Thomson said.
“They’re pretty unorthodox – little chip kicks, offloads.
“They play some exciting rugby.
“For both ends it’s going to be an exciting game.”