James Slipper will play his 100th game for the Reds against the Stormers on Sunday.
James Slipper will play his 100th game for the Reds against the Stormers on Sunday.

Milestone man Slipper is Reds’ sleepy giant

BEING nicknamed "James Sleeper" in the run to his 100th game in Cape Town should tell you two things about the nine-season regular in the Reds front-row.

Good-natured team niggle is most often a sign of respect and no-one commands more in the Reds team than the prop who has buried his head into too many scrums to count.

James Slipper, who has been named skipper for his milestone match, was also never unnerved by the 42-hour travel nightmare that unfolded before the team finally landed in Cape Town this week from Buenos Aires via London.

He could nap for Australia and has in seats on crowded planes and team coaches, departure lounges and team rooms.

James Slipper shares a laugh with Reds teammate Scott Higginbotham.
James Slipper shares a laugh with Reds teammate Scott Higginbotham.

Slipper is still just 28 yet coach Brad Thorn's youth overhaul has been so dramatic that he is playing with 19 and 20-year-olds who were still in primary school when he debuted in 2010.

"It's interesting, the first few years of your career seem to go really slow and I was the young fella looking up to James Horwill and Greg Holmes as the senior guys," Slipper said.

"The last few seasons have gone by really quickly and now I'm looked at as the old bloke who has been around forever.

"It's gone full circle."

Slipper added a few imaginary kilograms to his weight to look more impressive in match programs in his early years yet he is a solid 115kg-plus and using it this year.

He's never felt as strong, since wisely using last year's long lay-off when repairing a torn Achilles.

It's shown in his scrummaging and dominant tackling power in midfield.

More of the same from every Reds player is essential against the Stormers, who must be fancied to finish stronger than the jet-lagged Queenslanders on Sunday morning (EDT).

James Slipper in action for the Reds against the Bulls earlier this season.
James Slipper in action for the Reds against the Bulls earlier this season.

Slipper joins former scrum-mate Holmes (146), Dan Crowley (124) and the late Stan Pilecki (122) as the only props in the Reds' revered 100 Club.

"It's very humbling to reach No.100 which converts to a few thousand scrums where I play the game," Slipper said.

"I've been part of a few milestone games with big Kev (Horwill), getting tearful, Holmesy, Rob Simmons, Quade (Cooper) and Willy (Genia).

"You don't talk about it during the week. It's in the dressing room after the game that the emotion comes out."

Slipper said former scrum-pal Holmes was his most admired Reds teammate over time.

"I respect a whole lot of players but Holmesy, in the same tough position, helped me when I was young guy and we grew into a good front-row partnership," Slipper said.

Scott Higginbotham is returning from suspension via the bench. Hooper Alex Mafi will start and experienced Ben Lucas will play halfback instead of James Tuttle.

Duncan Paia'aua is back at inside centre which bumps Eto Nabuli off the wing and to the bench.

The Reds worked off their tiredness with a squad cricket match with easy inspiration because they are staying in the same Cape Town hotel as Steve Smith's Australian cricketers.

"Everyone was channelling their inner Aussie cricketer ... that's what we all wanted to be when we were younger," flyhalf Jono Lance said.

Queensland Reds team v Stormers

(Sunday, 1.15am AEST), Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

1. James Slipper (c), 2. Alex Mafi, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Adam Korczyk, 8. Caleb Timu, 9. Ben Lucas, 10. Jono Lance, 11. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12. Duncan Paia'aua, 13. Samu Kerevi, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 15. Aidan Toua. Reserves: 16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17. JP Smith, 18. Sef Fa'agase, 19. Harry Hockings, 20. Scott Higginbotham, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Hamish Stewart, 23. Eto Nabuli.



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