The Reds' Sam Kerevi makes ground against the Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium on April 1.
The Reds' Sam Kerevi makes ground against the Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium on April 1. DAVE HUNT

Depleted Reds get another skipper

The Queensland Reds' Samu Kerevi will lead a side short on experience into today's Super Rugby clash with the Lions in Brisbane but is adamant they aren't lambs to the slaughter.

The hosts have included 11 players aged 21 or under for the Suncorp Stadium clash against last year's Super Rugby grand finalists, with Jordan Petaia, 18, and Hamish Stewart, 19, set for run-on debuts.

Kerevi was the next man up after stand-in captain James Slipper and No.10 Jono Lance were both casualties of last week's limp loss to the Chiefs.

The return of 37-year-old George Smith, who debuted for the Brumbies before Petaia was born, is both a crucial addition and a nod the rawness of Brad Thorn's side.

But the stand-in captain says the Reds are not viewing the clash as a development project, importantly trusting the defence of his young flyhalf in a game he says they can win.

"Jono is a massive loss for us, but Hamish coming in, he is young but we trust in his ability ... he doesn't shy away from contact," Wallaby centre Kerevi said.

"I trust that he'll make his tackles ... we've said it a lot that we're a young side, but they're hungry to win."

After moving to 3-1 this season as the Thorn effect took hold, the Reds have lost four straight to drift to second-last in the Australian conference.

It looked ugly when they trailed 31-0 early in the second half against the Chiefs last Saturday, before a Kerevi double avoided complete humiliation in a 36-12 loss.

Defence was the focus this week after the Reds resembled turnstiles in a soul-searching first half against the Chiefs.

But Fijian-born Kerevi, who has been in and out of the Wallabies' set-up since his 2016 debut, is equally keen to create more second-phase play in attack to avoid "running through brick walls".

"Try and get that second touch, shift the point of contact and hopefully getting someone else that one-on-one," he said

"You've got to be smart on that and can't use up too much energy trying to run through brick walls.

"I feel like we've worked really hard and now it's about being smarter ... to really put teams under pressure."

The Lions (6-3), described by George Smith this week as being "cunning" operators in unstructured play, top the South African conference with 30 points, well clear of the Bulls (19) and Sharks (18).