Reds coach has big plans for rejuvenated Salakaia-Loto
REDS coach Brad Thorn has backed a rejuvenated Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to be among the men to lead a depleted Queensland on their tour of South Africa.
The destructive flanker was one of the side's best in their 24-12 defeat of the Stormers on Friday, taking them to 3-4 ahead of matches against the Bulls and Sharks.
It continued Salakaia-Loto's heartening return to the game after his stepfather's sudden passing last year led him to step down from Wallabies duty after an emotional September Test against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
Thorn lost his father when he was 19 and revealed post-game on Friday that he had drawn on that experience to help the 22-year-old bounce back.
"Obviously last year the loss of his dad, I can relate to that, a similar thing happened to me at same age," Thorn said.
Former rugby league talent Salakaia-Loto legally changed his name from Tui to honour his late father and returned to Ballymore in 2019 with a renewed focus.
"It's a tough thing that happened with his dad," Thorn said.
"He had grieving time, had space, got in here (in preseason) and ... when you're in good knick you feel good, you're mentally in a good space.
"I thought he was outstanding (on Friday), just enjoying his rugby ... he's in a really good space."
Queensland will be without winger Filipo Daugunu (suspected broken arm) for the South Africa trip, and centre Jordan Petaia (foot) is out for the season.
Fellow back Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring) and Angus Scott-Young (concussion) will travel after missing Friday's game.
Australian under-20 representatives Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Isaac Lucas and Jack Hardy will all remain in Australia on international duties.
Captain Samu Kerevi will be on the plane but has planned to be rested ahead of the World Cup, which would leave a side thin on midfield options without one of the competition's form players.
Backs Jock Campbell, Teti Tela and Aidan Toua and forwards Adam Korczyk and Gav Luka have all been added to the 27-man squad.
Thorn acknowledged they were stretched for the Pretoria-Durban double but backed Salakaia-Loto and lock Izack Rodda, who also lost his father at the start of this season, to be among the men to fill the void.
"If we make that decision to rest (Kerevi) then it'll be a hard guy to fill," Thorn said.
"But that's one of the cool things about the team - it's not just one guy (leading)."