Finals dreaming ... a perfect win over the Waratahs may still not be enough to get the Reds to the finals. Photo: Getty Images
TEAMS spend season upon season chasing the ''perfect game''; a night where everything touched turns to solid gold and moments of blind luck masquerade as pure genius.
Unfortunately for the Queensland Reds, even if they do attain a state of rugby bliss against a state they love to beat more than any other - NSW - it might not be enough to earn them a place in the Super Rugby finals.
Beating the Waratahs is generally reward in itself for the Reds and there's rarely a game that doesn't provide a talking point for the next. But this time, there won't be a next game for Queensland if they don't win going away and other results don't conspire to come to their aid.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has watched his side lift itself from a form slump compounded by long-term injuries to key players and enter the final round on a five-game winning streak and a chance of playing in the post-season. To do that, they need a bonus point win over the Waratahs and hope one of the four teams above them (Brumbies, Crusaders, Sharks and Bulls) drop a home game to lesser opponents (Blues, Force, Cheetahs and Lions).
As they did before beating the Highlanders, a win will be the priority; the bonus point an added extra.
''You go out there to play well. You go out there to try and play your best football,'' McKenzie said. ''As a byproduct of that, you might score four tries. You might score eight tries if you play really well. But to start with the four tries and work backwards usually ends in tears.''
McKenzie is under no illusion as to what level the Reds need to reach if they are to tear up the Tahs, who are travelling terribly but always lift for the interstate derby.
''What we need is the perfect game this weekend to ensure we get the best ladder position possible,'' he said. ''One thing I can guarantee is we haven't played the perfect game yet. It's still ahead of us. This weekend would be very timely.''
Rob Simmons (cork) remains in doubt for the Reds but Digby Ioane (pneumonia) and Liam Gill (hamstring) are in contention to play.
With the stoic Beau Robinson continuing to play through the pain of a foot injury, the return of Gill would be a huge boost to a Reds side who had to endure a battering at the breakdown from the Highlanders before escaping with a tense 19-13 win.
Post-injury Quade Cooper looked a better player than the pre-injury version on Friday night, with his game management and deft kicks adding to his great feet and supersonic passing. He believes the big-game experience of last year will ensure the Reds have an edge over the Tahs in what will be the biggest game of Super Rugby in Brisbane since last year's grand final.