NSW Waratahs vs Melbourne Rebels Match Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

NSW Waratahs vs Melbourne Rebels Match Preview

NSW Waratahs vs Melbourne Rebels Match Preview

They don’t come much bigger than this! After spending their ‘rest’ week embroiled in the Israel Folau fiasco the Waratahs will be desperate to get back on the field and play some rugby, they take on the conference-leading Rebels in an Easter Saturday blockbuster. It’s a match that will not only have huge implications on the Australian conference ladder, but with so many intriguing match-ups across the park it’s one that is set to have significant implications on Wallabies selections.

The form

After a relatively positive start to the season, the Waratahs have fallen off the boil of late, with a shock loss to the Sunwolves followed by a 2-point defeat at the hands of the Blues. They sit 2nd on the conference ladder trailing their opponents on Saturday by seven points, but with a tour of South Africa still looming the Tahs will know this is as close to must-win as they come. In their favour, they have an excellent record against the Rebels having won 13 of their 15 encounters since 2011 with just one loss from 8 in Sydney.

The Rebels sit 5-3 in 2019 following the hiding they received from the Stormers last week at home. It was a firm reality check for David Wessels men, with the South African born coach admitting they were too predictable against his compatriots from Cape Town. He will know a win here will go a long way to securing the Rebels their first finals berth


The nature of the game and what is potentially at stake has not surprisingly seen both coaches name full strength teams. It’s a well-balanced looking Waratahs side with Jed Holloway returning to the second row to partner Rob Simmons. Some much-needed good news came for NSW on Thursday with Kurtley Beale surviving a midweek tonsilitis scare and is named to replace Israel Folau at fullback. Jake Gordon has got the nod over Nick Phipps this week after an energetic performance off the pine against the Blues while Ned Hanigan has been ruled out with a knee injury.

The Rebels will welcome back their leading try scorer Jack Maddocks with open arms after his attacking flair and finishing skills were sorely missed in the loss to the Stormers last week. He slots onto the right wing replacing Semisi Toupou forming a destructive back three alongside Reece Hodge and Marika Korobiete. Hooker Anaru Rangi and lock Matt Philip also return to the starting XV which should help to provide some much-needed grunt in the engine room. Stand-in captain Angus Cotterill has been ruled out with a concussion, with Richard Hardwick called in to start at openside flanker. Tom English will assume the captaincy duties, in the absence of both Cotterill and Dane Haylett-Petty.

Key Matchups


Renewing acquaintances

It’s a game full of key matchups. Simmons vs Coleman, Hunt vs Meakes, Genia vs Gordon. But the headline act remains:

Bernard Foley vs Quade Cooper

This is the one all Australian Super Rugby fans have been waiting for. It’s been over 2 years since the two premier flyhalves in Australian rugby faced off and with Foley effectively having a mortgage on the gold 10 jersey over that time the challenge laid down by Quade Cooper and his flat attack in 2019 is not only good for Foley games but for Australian Rugby. After starting 2019 on fire Quade was relatively poor last week and will be eager to prove to Cheika and Co he has rediscovered his big game temperament.

Jack Dempsey vs Luke Jones

This would appear like another shoot-out for a Wallabies Jersey, with both Dempsey and Jones playing the house down in their return to their respected franchises in 2019. Two backrowers with contrasting skill sets, Dempsey is electric and can turn a game on its head with his speed and aggression. Jones is more of a workhorse and sits second overall in tackles made in Super Rugby for 2019, averaging 12 a game, whilst his ability to distupt opposition lineouts remains unrivalled in Australia.


WARATAHS (15-1): Kurtley Beale, Cam Clark, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper (c), Jack Dempsey, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes

Reserves: Andrew Tuala, Rory O’Connor, Chris Talakai, Tom Staniforth, Will Miller, Nick Phipps, Lalakai Foketi, Curtis Rona

REBELS (15-1): Reece Hodge, Jack Maddocks, Tom English (c), Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Luke Jones, Adam Coleman, Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Anaru Rangi, Matt Gibbon

Reserves: Hugh Roach, Tetera Faulkner, Sam Talakai, Ross Haylett-Petty, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Campbell Magnay, Sione Tuipulotu.


It’s high stakes at the SCG, and I expect both sides will come out firing early on. Although much has been made about the two red-hot backlines, I suspect this will be won up front.  When the Rebels struggle to get front-foot ball they look like a bottom tier side rather than one who is destinated to play finals. You would think the Waratahs game plan should be relatively straight forward – front up in defence and win the battle of the collision. I’m predicting the Israel Folau controversy will galvanise Daryl Gibson’s men in what is Micheal Hoopers 100th game for NSW handing the Rebels their second straight loss.

Waratahs by 6….

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Oliver, I’m not so sure the Tahs will have got through this week without scars. I think the 10/12 combination of the Rebels is way better than the Tahs and while Beale can pull out some good stuff when he gets the ball in broken play I think he’s got too many weaknesses in defence. I’m picking the Rebels by 12+ for this one, I just think they’ve got it.

    • Huw Tindall

      Haven’t lost a game by more than 6 points this year so 12+ would be a surprise. I think Rebels should do it but unlikely to be a hiding. Tahs will need a similar performance to the Saders game to get up here.

  • No mention of the Talakai v Talakai match-up?

    • idiot savant

      They are both tight heads so will be on opposite sides of the scrum. If they both drop anchor the scrum shouldn’t move!

  • Adrian

    You make a good point Olver re Tahs pack. They certainly seem to have overacheived this year!

    I tipped them, and now feel anxious, but your analysis helps!

    A look at Tah bench suggests up tempo in the last 20. They should be fresher than Rebs.

    If you add a novel tactic or two, kicking to Clark and Newsome, and Beale running off Foley it is all possible.

    All the bullshit will galvanise or hurt the Tahs

    PS,…I still hope QC has a good game

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      I am certain the Rebels will win. I can’t see Beale or those wingers threatening.

      But then again, the last time I was so certain about a result was when the Tahs played the Crusaders, so…

  • Adrian

    Bookies say even money ($1.90) for both on a $1 bet, but 0.5 start to Tahs on handicap betting

  • Brisneyland Local

    Well GAGR’s this is the game. The big one for the year in the Aussie conference. BL’s points in no particualr order:
    – The Tahs forwards have performed better than expected this year. And to be honest so they should have.
    – The Rebs forward pack were doubted, and in all games minus their Saffa games they have been above par. With the return of Phillip and Rangi, the Rebs return to a full strength pack.
    – Beale in fullback I think is a liability for the Tah’s. When in form he is good in broken play, but he isnt in form. His defence is shit, and skills under a high ball are poor.
    – Rebs line out will slaughter the Tahs.

    All in all I tihnk this will be a case of whoever makes the least errors will win this. I think the Tahs will try and copy the Stormers game plan, minus the fast forwards to do it with discipline. I think they will get tagged for being offside or trying to be too aggressive.
    The Rebs will target the Tahs weak areas in defence Foley Beale etc etc and will send bombs to Beale in the rear.
    If the Rebs get some some space, the Tahs are farked.

    Rebs by 7+

    • Keith Butler

      To close to call. A ref with blue tinted glasses and the crappy SCG pitch could see the Tahs home and the Hossman will be unbearably smug. Go the Rebels.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Allegedly. But he is in Darwin so he might be too pissed to see the game.

      • Hoss

        At least I am consistent – a prick if a winner and a prick of a loser. So really – you’re welcome.

        Ps – yes to our bet, rebels somehow fluke a win ( not bloody likely) and I will email $20 Dan Murphys voucher to buy a Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Semillon Sav Blanc which u missed through illness in Feb.

        • Keith Butler

          Fair dues Hoss. If by some dodgy refs decision the Tahs stumble over the line you have a choice of Butler’s home brewed or a fine Tassie red.

      • Who?

        Great call. 9-1 penalty count in the second half. I don’t know who ever thought Damon Murphy was anything like competent (I had strong doubts after he helped the Reds beat the Wolves in Tokyo), but that proves it. Talakai gets a YC while Foley and Cooper squabble on the ground after Foley’s allowed to play the ball on the ground. Hodge penalized for not rolling away after he’s rolled twice and completely cleared the breakdown. He was only reffing one side tonight…

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      To be honest I haven’t been impressed by the Tahs’ forwards. They’ve been bullied in most of their matches. They’ve had a few shining lights like HJH (who has been really impressive) and Hooper (started slowly but is playing very well now), but generally they been beaten at the breakdown, at the scrum and in ball-carrying.

      Their backs have compensated for them a lot, but I can’t see them being able to compensate for them without Folau.

      • Brisneyland Local

        I am hoping so!

  • dru

    A game to look forward to. I hope that the key players are on form and the game meets expectations.

    Quade v Foley
    Hunt v Meakes
    DHP v Beale
    Holloway/Simmons v Coleman/Phillip

    Can’t help siding with the Rebels here but it’s heart not head.

    • Keith Butler

      DHP not playing Hodge at 15.

  • Rebels Ruck

    Looking forward to it…just hope both teams bring their A games. Both have looked dangerous in certain games but then let themselves down in others. As you say, it should help to clarify who should be in that Wallabies starting XV in a few months. Shame it’s not in Melbourne, would love to see it in person.

  • Brumby Runner

    In last year’s match between these two in Melbourne (I think) both Holloway and Philip had outstanding games. It was Holloway’s best outing in forever but still outplayed on the day by Matt Philip. Holloway is adding quality in the second row at the Tahs, but I think Philip will finish up on top in this particular little battle again.

    The Rebels have been impressive in most of their wins this year, with Genia/Cooper outstanding. The Tahs have been less impressive and downright awful in some of their losses. Rebels are more likely to rise to the occasion this weekend and take the win by 8+.

    • Huw Tindall

      The games the Tahs have lost have all been by 6 or less and all but one by 3 or less. Not bad for downright awful. Realistically they could have won 4 of those and would be flying high. Case of close but no cigar for them this year and probably again this weekend.

      • Adrian

        He’s not worth replying to Huw. Not sure what it is, but a hint of alt-right trollism from some who confuse facts and opinions. It’s a shame, and I sometimes get better analysis elsewhere, where there is no anti-Tah orthodoxy!

  • idiot savant

    I think the Tahs will knock some more hot air out of the Rebels, just like they did last year. The Tahs have too much class for the Rebels. While the Rebels have some class, they have more journeymen. Cooper has always been a great frontrunner and poor under pressure. The Tah forwards will show up, their back row will be too quick, and their backs defence will be too good. Tahs by 10+

    • Peter Morse

      Hooper will waste Cooper.

      • idiot savant

        Yes I think Hooper will be influential in a Tahs victory.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Out of interest, aside from Hooper where do you see the Tahs’ class this year?

        • Peter Morse

          Just plenty of wishful thinking……..

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Suffice to say, I’ll be very impressed with both of your tipping skills if correct, and shall come to you with a whole host of questions as to who I should put my money on!

        • idiot savant

          The Tahs have showed class in every game just not for 80 minutes. They showed plenty of class against the Crusaders.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Would anyone other than Kepu, Johnson-Holmes or Hooper make a combined 15?

    Can’t see them winning this. But who knows, they beat the Crusaders so anything could happen.

  • Adrian

    Interestingly, odds reversed, and now 0.5 start to Rebs, and Tahs now backed in to paying 1.80 a win, and Rebs out to $2.00.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Why the fluctuation?

      • Adrian

        Interesting BL

        The way online betting works, it is a sign that more money has been bet on Waratahs than Rebels in last 24 hours.

        The original odds would have been set by the Sportsbet computer, and taken into consideration season form, form v each other and injuries or drop outs of top one or two players. It would have made allowances for Folau being absent. Once the odds are set (about Wednesday), changes are driven by money only. If lots of people with money thought that no Folau would have a bigger impact than the Sportsbet computer, then the start to the Waratahs would have increased not decreased.

        If it were horses, this would suggest that that someone with a fair bit of knowledge about something (eg the other horse has a sore leg) has bet a big amount of cash.

        With Rugby it isn’t as obvious, but I suspect that people re-assessed everything after the Folau stuff died down and came to the conclusion that his effect was not as big as first thought. Maybe a few big betters know that a Rebels guy is injured. This sort of change doesn’t come from small punters, it comes from money.

        No emotion in bets by professional gamblers

        • Brisneyland Local

          Yeah thanks for that. Have never bet on anything in my life so have no idea how it works.

Melbourne Rebels

A Bush League Opinionist

More in Melbourne Rebels

  • Thursdays Rugby News

      Week Four of my GAGR adventure My discussion points in no particular order. The way to...

  • Thursday Rugby News

    Week Three of my GAGR adventure “a bit of clickbait in here”  so feel free to bring...

  • Wednesday’s Rugby News

    Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at a possible Liam Gill return, Western Australia’s Asian ambitions, Rebels’ quarantine uncertainty...

  • Monday’s Rugby News

    Due to an amazing response from our community the Rugby News is back on track. We now...