Smith, Perese closer to return for Reds
WALLABY great George Smith and wing flyer Izaia Perese will return to Reds training on Monday but with no chance of figuring in Saturday night's key clash against the Brumbies.
Flanker Smith is yet to return to full contact training after not playing since a back injury in Japan forced him into surgery last December.
He has been under the radar repairing his body at Ballymore since his late return from Tokyo where police charges were dropped after a taxi driver drama on New Year's Eve.
Missing this match will deny rugby fans of a final chance to watch a Smith-David Pocock skirmish.
Pocock will be a fresh stumbling block for the Reds in Canberra after playing his first game for the Brumbies since 2016 on Saturday night.
Even though his side lost 24-17 to the NSW Waratahs, there was a classic Pocock pilfer with his team defending the tryline, a quota of strong hit-ups and plenty of sharpening up.
Perese has missed Queensland's positive 3-2 win-loss start to Super Rugby because of knee ligament damage after being one of the standouts in pre-season.
It's credit to the new depth and fight that coach Brad Thorn has instilled that victories over the Brumbies, Bulls and Jaguares have been won without two of the team's biggest aces.
Saturday night in Canberra would seem too close for both, which means Adam Korcyzk building on his excellent game at openside flanker against the Stormers.
Equally, Chris Feauai-Sautia and rookie Filipo Daungunu, who scored a brilliant 95m try through three defenders against the Stormers, will stay on the wing against the Brumbies.
The big upside is that Smith and Perese will be back during the four-game block ahead that can make or break the Reds' season.
The Reds face the Brumbies and NSW Waratahs (April 14) away before hosting New Zealand's Chiefs (April 21) and South Africa's Lions (April 28) at Suncorp Stadium.
The Melbourne Rebels' 50-19 collapse against the Hurricanes last Friday night has tightened the Australian Conference.
Victory over the Brumbies and Waratahs would almost carry double points because the Reds would advance and rob their Conference rivals of points at the same time.
The Rebels (20 points from six games) will tread water with a bye this weekend while the Reds (13 from five) can flatten the Brumbies (nine from five) and keep pace with the Waratahs (14 from five).
Reducing errors from sloppy passing and low-percentage offloads has been a real advance for the Reds which they must show against a Brumbies side that has not learnt those lessons.