MELBOURNE: Queensland Reds captain Tate McDermott said the Super Rugby side do not have a mental barrier when it comes to facing New Zealand teams despite their terrible record against Kiwi opposition in recent years.
The Reds ruled the roost in Australia last year, winning the domestic championship, but their 27-25 home loss to the Waikato Chiefs last week was their 22nd defeat in 24 matches against New Zealand opponents.
Australian rivals ACT Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs rubbed salt into the Reds' wounds by notching wins against the Wellington Hurricanes and Crusaders last weekend.
"We beat the Kiwis once last year so we know what we’re capable of," Wallaby McDermott told reporters on Wednesday (May 4).
"At the same time, it’s good to see the Aussie sides doing well, getting the wins.
"We’re really frustrated with (our) results because we know we can do better.
"I don't think there is a mental barrier but we've got to prove that there isn't."
Fifth in the Super Rugby standings, the Reds may not have a better chance to do that when they face the Otago Highlanders at home on Friday.
The Highlanders (2-8) are the worst-performing New Zealand side, sitting 10th on the table after struggling to beat expansion side Fijian Drua in Suva.
The Reds' scrum will be under pressure, however, without rampaging Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou, who suffered a season-ending calf strain against the Chiefs.
Feao Fotuaika will pack down at tighthead instead.
With the Chiefs having won a string of scrum penalties after Tupou's injury, McDermott expects the Highlanders will also target their set-piece.
"But I back our guys to do a job there," said the scrumhalf.
Tupou's absence will be hard to cover, but classy wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Jordan Petaia have returned from hamstring strains to be named in the starting 15 on Wednesday.
"They're the type of players that can create something out of nothing and that's something we'll need against the Kiwi teams, particularly the Highlanders, with good defence," said McDermott.