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The St.George Queensland Reds will celebrate two individual milestones in Friday night’s Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin with centre Anthony Faingaa to play his 50th game for Queensland and Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie to become the most capped coach in Super Rugby history.
Faingaa reaches the 50-game provincial mark in just his fifth season with the Reds while the talented centre also has 53 Super Rugby caps on his resume after making four appearances for the Brumbies earlier in his career.
McKenzie will also become the most capped Super Rugby coach in history on Friday with the game against the Highlanders representing his 121st game in charge of either the Reds or Waratahs.
The Reds Director of Coaching enters the match tied with Wallaby coach Robbie Deans on 120 games in charge at a Super Rugby level with McKenzie enjoying 66 matches with the Waratahs from 2003-08 and another 54 with Queensland since joining in 2010.
Faingaa and McKenzie will be hoping to celebrate their milestones in style although they will face a difficult challenge in the Highlanders, who the Reds have not beaten on New Zealand soil in the professional Rugby era.
Should the Reds be successful it would also represent the first time Queensland has won in Dunedin since 1981 and would give the Reds a strong 5-2 record heading into their bye week.
“Regardless of personal milestones, beating the Highlanders in New Zealand for the first time in the professional era is the team milestone that is most important and where our focus is,” McKenzie said.
“Our past against the Highlanders isn’t something we are happy about, but we’ve been very good about creating new history around this team and knocking off those unwanted records.
“It’s a piece of history we can take into the game as motivation while we also want to go into our bye with a win and in the right space mentally.
“Congratulations though to Anthony for reaching his 50th game. He’s a player we have an extremely high opinion of and that we’ve pushed into a leadership space. He’s the ultimate team player and we all wish him well on Friday night.”
Faingaa has been one of the Reds vocal leaders in their past two Australian Conference winning seasons with his form also recognised at a Wallabies level with 23 Test caps to his name.
Faingaa has been equally strong off the field and last year took home the 2012 Spirit of the Reds Award, given to the player who had best demonstrated the behaviour and attributes that are hallmarks of the team culture.
McKenzie has turned around the Reds on-field fortunes since joining the organisation in 2010, where he took over a side that had won just eight games during the previous three seasons to a fifth place finish in his first year, the team’s best result since 2002.
A year later and McKenzie guided the Reds to their first Super Rugby championship after finishing on top of the ladder while he sustained this success in 2012 when the Reds won back-to-back Australian Conference titles.
McKenzie is also the longest serving coach in Waratahs history and guided NSW to the Super Rugby Final in just his second year at the helm in 2005, to a Semi-Final in 2006, and Final again in 2008.
22 MAY 2019