Super Rugby Match Preview
Friday, 30th March
Rebels vs Hurricanes
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kickoff: 19h45 Local Time, 08h45 GMT, 10h45 SA Time
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
It was back in 2011 that the Rebels managed their first win over a New Zealand outfit. They beat the Hurricanes 42 – 25 in Melbourne. Since that glorious day things have not worked too well for the Rebels. They lost the next five encounters quite badly. The worst a 71 – 6 drubbing last year. In those five fixtures they conceded 238 points and scored just 78.
2018 is the year where they will want to put things right. Having spent the off-season cleaning house, chucking out more than half their 2017 squad, and then recruiting from across Australia and the world, they have assembled a very strong squad, and it has shown in their results so far. They have had a great start to their year, with four wins from 5 starts. They are on their longest winning streak in the club’s history, three on the trot, and they rather fancy their chances against the ‘Canes of 2018.
This might not be as easy as they think.
The Hurricanes started the 2018 season with something of a shock loss to the Bulls in Pretoria. They started to fix things with a scrappy but comfortable win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Since then the gears have started to mesh, the cogs are all spinning in the right direction, and the wheels are turning too. They have beaten both the Crusaders and the Highlanders, and have quickly become the bookies favourites for the 2018 title.
The Rebels might have the resources to win this one, but the Hurricanes are an immense hurdle to overcome.
The Rebels have made three changes to their starting line-up ahead of Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes in Melbourne.
Flanker Lopeti Timani, lock Matt Phillip and utility back Tom English are all back to start, replacing Colby Fainga’a, Geoff Parling and Sefa Naivalu.
Ben Daley is back on the replacements bench after a concussion, while Jordan Uelese is also included on the bench in place of Mahe Vailanu.
The Rebels have again selected a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench, with Ross Haylett-Petty returning to the match-day 23 after being rested against the Sharks last weekend.
The Hurricanes have made three changes to their starting XV.
Vince Aso comes in for Matt Proctor at outside centre in the only change to the backline.
Vaea Fifita comes in at lock, replacing Murray Douglas, while Ardie Savea is replaced at openside flanker by Sam Henwood.
On the replacements bench Jamie Booth gets a spot in place of Richard Judd while Wes Goosen takes Aso’s 23 shirt from last week.
This promises to be a more competitive game than we have seen between Aussie and New Zealand teams in many a year. The new-look Rebels are playing some very clever rugby, coach Dave Wessels is laying down a marker that suggests he may well be the next Wallaby coach when Michael Cheika goes.
Both sides like to throw the ball around and play fast attacking rugby. The Rebels have finally found the secret of winning rugby: Score tries! They have scored an average of 5,6 tries per game in 2018. The Hurricanes are scoring 4 per game.
The difference, of course, lies in the quality of the opposition the two teams faced, the Crusaders and the Highlanders are vastly different to the Sharks, the Brumbies, and the Sunwolves.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two sides lies at the other end of the field. Who has conceded tries? Who are the best defenders?
The Hurricanes are way ahead here, they are sitting on top of the statistical log having conceded the least this season, just 8 tries. The Rebels are not quite up there, having conceded 15 tries.
The form of the two teams does not really tell us much. The Rebels have beaten the Reds, the Sunwolves, the Brumbies and the Sharks. None of which quite measure up to the Hurricanes’ wins over the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
This game will provide us with insight regarding the Rebels of 2018. This is their first test against real quality opposition.
Having watched the two teams over the last two weekends, I have not seen anything that will suggest that the Hurricanes are doing anything other than building up a head of steam. The Rebels, in contrast, lost inexplicably to the Waratahs, and then demolished a ponderous Sharks outfit.
There is no indication that the Rebels have made sufficient improvements to suggest that they will beat the Hurricanes.
And then there is that leaky defence, against one of the best striking forces in world rugby?
I have the Hurricanes winning by at least 12.
Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Tom English, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Sefa Naivalu
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Sam Henwood, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Wes Goosen