Match Preview - Rebels v Highlanders - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Match Preview – Rebels v Highlanders

Match Preview – Rebels v Highlanders

The Highlanders from Dunedin travel across the ditch to meet up with the Rebels, at home in Melbourne for the first time in 2019.

It was oh-so-close. The final round of 2018 and the Rebels are at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The score is 43-37 in favour of the Highlanders and the Rebels have one final play at the full-time siren to get over the line. Jack Maddocks can smell the tryline, however, Waisake Naholo has other ideas and the Rebels’ first chance at finals footy goes out the window with one crushing tackle…

These two teams have met seven times, with the Rebels only coming out on top once – a classic come-from-behind win at AAMI Park in the last round of 2013. Is it time again for the Rebels to get one up on the South Islanders? They certainly have the cattle, but is it enough to better the clansmen?


The Highlanders are two from two, after two very close wins over an average Chiefs away and an impressive Reds at home. Meanwhile, the Rebels have only played one match and came home from Canberra with a win in round one over the Brumbies. An unwelcome round two bye makes it hard to judge how the Rebels have started their season, in fact evaluating any team after only two rounds involves a fair amount of guesswork. Both teams look OK.

Player Match-ups

Quade Cooper v Bryn Gatland  (Flyhalf): Bryn “Son of Warren” Gatland makes his Highlanders debut after a fairly uninspiring stint at the Blues. How the new kid on the block shapes up against “old” master Quade will be an interesting contest.

Jack Maddocks v Waisake Naholo (Wing): Naholo spoiled Maddocks’ (and the Rebels’) party the last time these two teams met in Dunedin. Will Mad Dog get his revenge or will the ever-impressive Naholo be a big party-pooper?

Waisake Naholo – on the attack (as usual)

Should I bother?

Yeah, why not. It will be interesting to see how Quade Cooper performs after impressing so much in his round one debut for the Rebels. Was it a one-off, or has he started as he means to finish? We shall wait and see (and hope).

Quade gives Joe Powell some styling tips


The Rebels have made minimal changes to the starting 15 that took on the Brumbies two weeks ago. Sam Talakai comes into the front row, pushing Jermaine Ainsley back to the bench, while Brad Wilkin swaps with Dicky Hardwick. Meanwhile, on the pine, Reece Hodge and Adam Coleman make a welcome return after injury.

Things are very different with the boys from Dunedin. The Highlanders have made a raft of changes in line with the requirement for New Zealand Super Rugby teams having to rest certain All Blacks. This has resulted in a team so different to the previous week that only five starters remain from when they played the Reds in Dunedin.

Ben Smith is out, as is Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock and hooker Liam Coltman. Bryn Gatland, the son of Wales coach Warren Gatland will make his debut for the Highlanders at Flyhalf, moving Josh Ioane to Fullback.


Starters: 1. Tetera Faulkner 2. Anaru Rangi 3. Sam Talakai 4. Luke Jones 5. Matt Philip 6. Angus Cottrell 7. Brad Wilkin 8. Isi Naisarani 9. Will Genia 10. Quade Cooper 11. Marika Koroibete 12. Billy Meakes 13. Tom English 14. Jack Maddocks 15. Dane Haylett-Petty(c)

Finishers: 16. Robbie Abel 17. Matt Gibbon 18. Jermaine Ainsley 19. Adam Coleman 20. Richard Hardwick 21. Rob Leota 22. Michael Ruru 23. Reece Hodge


Starters: 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown 2. Ash Dixon (c) 3. Siate Tokolahi 4. Jackson Hemopo 5. Pari Pari Parkinson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. James Lentjes 8. Elliot Dixon 9. Kayne Hammington 10. Bryn Gatland 11. Josh McKay 12. Teihorangi Walden 13. Thomas Umaga-Jensen 14. Waisake Naholo 15. Josh Ioane

Finishers: 16. Ricky Jackson 17. Ayden Johnstone 18. Josh Iosefa-Scott 19. Tom Franklin 20. Marino Mikaele Tu’u 21. Folau Fakatava 22. Patelesio Tomkinson 23. Marty Banks


While the Highlanders may be resting many key players for this encounter, you underestimate Kiwi teams at your own peril. The Rebels need to approach this game like the Highlanders are at full strength else they will find themselves on the losing end. That said, with the return of Hodge and Coleman and this being on home soil, I feel the Rebels can right the wrongs of the last time these two teams met in Dunedin. 

The Rebels sneaking in by an uncomfortable 6.

Welcome back, Mr. Hodge!

Match details

Date: Friday 01 March 2019
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia
Kick-off: 7.45 pm (AEDT)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Touchies: Marius van der Westhuizen & Damon Murphy
TMO: Ian Smith

  • Huw Tindall

    Would like to know if the Highlanders resting so many ABs would be a different story in a non-RWC where the AB resting policy isn’t so tight.

    This year no AB player can play >180 mins in the first 3 games. The Highlanders have had to run some pretty heavy minutes for their ABs in the first two games to secure the wins so they don’t have a lot of choice this game. In seasons past they may choose to rest ABs in a game against the Rebels as they were easy beats – not so this year (hopefully!).

    Should be a cracking game. Usual story, if the Rebels forwards can get parity then the Rebels backs should be able to bring it home.

    • Ed

      At least fans know what the ABs resting policy is.
      Our’s??? The training camp that Cheika ran the show at in January may have lost some goodwill with the SR coaches.

      The Rebels should really win this match, considering how many test players they have compared with their opponents. If the Highlanders place pressure on the Rebels scrum and around the fringes of the ruck, the Rebels could struggle.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I agree that’s where the Highlanders will put pressure on the Rebels. If they manage to keep it tight they should do ok and their backs, while not big names are still capable of scoring some good tries.

        • Huw Tindall

          Got a prediction KRL? Given the Highlanders are resting some big names and away from home I’m leaning to Rebels but only 55/45 at best. Very hard to call with the recent historical record.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Hey Huw. I’m still predicting Highlanders at home. But close. No more tha 5

      • Dylan Langes

        Im not sure why Fereti Sa’aga isn’t getting a look in. Last season he was able to hold up against Tupou when Faulkner was getting destroyed by him. Ainsley was doing really well until that All Black game, hasn’t really been the same since. Interest that Wessels was talking about how they needed more weight in their second row with a traditional 5, since both Phillip and Jones are 4s.

      • Huw Tindall

        True clarity would be great but on the Fox rugby pod this week Nick Phipps answered questions about the camp and he was emphatic that is was nothing out of the ordinary and just a fact that players get injured. Not particularly onerous and much more than just fitness was involved.

        It’s the first time Aus rugby has done this resting policy so i’m not surprised it isn’t set in stone like the Kiwis. All we’ve got is a figure of 20% reduced workload. Would be nice to have some thought on what that means.

        Rebels – agree that’s the assessment I agree with. Still a 55/45 call though!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      In a non RWC year there is no way they would rest so many at once. The ABs and Super coaches always have issues about the amount of time the ABs play but they generally work it out ok.

  • Keith Butler

    The usual story for the Rebs, are their forwards particularly the front five up to it.

    • Brendan Hume

      I think the Rangi/Dixon battle should be a cracker. Rangi was impressive last year with his dynamic footy and he followed that up in the Brumbies game. Ash Dixon is a tough and experienced player.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks G, I think this is going to be quite a tight game and the Highlanders may rue resting so many of their Abs in one hit. I think it was the leadership of the 2 Smiths and Whitelock that enabled them to come from behind and win the last 2 games and I get the feeling that without them they may struggle. I don’t rate Mark Hammett as a coach and I think the game is going to be interesting. I do think the Highlanders have got it in the forwards though and this may be enough to bring them through depending on the tactics they both play. Putting my Kiwi hat on; Highlanders by 8

    • Happyman


      I agree the Landers simply would not have won the last two games without the Smith’s and Whitelock. You can really see the loss of Lima S is having an effect on composure and without Ben from accounting the Landers may struggle to close the game like they did last week.

      I also see that based on the two teams lineups only one team can win this game by a large margin and for the first time in about five years it is not the Kiwi team.

      I foresee the Rebels getting away with this one. For mine Rebels by 10.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        It’ll certainly be interesting. Not sure that the Highlanders can’t win this by a big margin as no one makes a NZ Super team if they aren’t a good player – that’s why some go to Australia :-) Going to be interesting but I’m still picking the NZ team at home.

        • Kevino

          You know it’s in Melbourne right?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Oops. For some reason I thought it was NZ. Probably stupid. It’ll be harder but they’re a good side and can do it

    • Dylan Langes

      I think as GO pointed out, you underestimate a kiwi team at your own peril. Why is it the Blues were able to defeat Aussies sides for so long when getting smashed by everyone else.
      Smith and Whitelock make a massive difference to that squad though.

  • Brendan Hume

    Looks to be a really good game. Highlanders leaked plenty against a pretty one-dimensional Reds – Rebels will need to be direct and playing at the pace that left the Brumbies flailing. Hopefully Sam Talakai will strengthen the scrum, however I am not sold on starting Coleman on the bench – Rebs looked like they could use some more size in the second row. Highlanders have some very good players in their side – whether they can use them should be the decider.

  • Adrian

    The bookies say Landers by 1.5, but earlier in the week it was by 4.5.

    I’m tipping the Rebs.

    This match will help show whether we are improving or not across our SR teams

  • Andrew Luscombe

    Weather prediction for Melbourne tomorrow is 37. Even at 7:30 it’ll likely be 34 but a bit more humid, dropping to maybe 32 by end of play.

    • GoMelbRebels

      That will play into the Reb’s hands – way too hot for those from the south of the south. I don’t know, I’m just making that up.

      • Mr Wobbly

        I agree. The boys have trained through some pretty hot weather this year. OTOH, my own experience tells me that the weather never gets above about 11 degrees in NZ. ;)

Melbourne Rebels

Who was it that said "there's always next season"? Oh yes, it was me, every year... Played every position in the forwards as a lad, was crap at all of them.

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