Both the Melbourne Rebels and the Queensland Reds will be looking at this game as an opportunity to restore some pride and keep alive their remote, but mathematically possible, chance of playing finals – or at least not finishing last on the table.
If there is one thing that the recent Reds Vs Waratahs and Rebels Vs Brumbies matches proved it’s that two evenly matched teams can provide an exciting contest; even if those teams aren’t particularly good.
The Rebels will be bolstered with the return of Colby Fainga’a after injury. Sean “Mad Dog” McMahon has been named on the bench for his first game this season. For the Reds, Karmichael Hunt and Nick Frisby return, Izaia Perese has been benched, James Tuttle and Leroy Houston have been omitted.
Good to see this bloke back in action!
The Rebels recent form has been… diabolical. An ugly draw against the Sharks in Durban, followed by a thrashing from the Kings saw them return home to AAMI Park only to receive another belting at the hands of the Lions. In the past two games the Rebels have conceded twelve tries and scored one.
On the plus side, the Rebels have enjoyed relative success at home against Australian opponents over the past few seasons. The last eight home derbies have produced four wins and four losses with none decided by more than eight points. Recently, the Rebels have had the wood over the Reds winning four of their past six encounters.
In several games this season, the Rebels have been competitive in the first half but blown away in the second. They have conceded a massive 31 second half tries, the vast majority of which have come from less than three phases. Is this due to poor defensive systems, lack of fitness, bench players, attitude or, a little of each?
As poor as the Rebels defence has been their attack has been worse. They must find a way to bring their attacking outside backs into the contest. The new halfs combination of the Bens, Meehan and Volavola, have their work cut out.
The Rebels need to keep Kerevi under wraps
The Reds recent form has also been less than stellar. They managed to beat the Kings in Round 10 but have since lost to the Waratahs and, last week, were pounded by the Chiefs.
The Reds have lost all of their last ten Australian derbies, including three so far in 2017. They are another team that have struggled in the back half of games, giving up 26 second half tries while scoring only fourteen of their own.
Discipline has been an issue for the Reds all season. They are among the most penalised sides in the competition and they are the most carded with nine yellow and one red.
In a effort to inject some spark into his team, coach Nick Stiles has shuffled a number of his players. Duncan Paia’aua moves from fullback to inside centre, Samu Kerevi shifts to outside centre and Campbell Magnay goes to the wing. After a month on the sidelines, Nick “Box Kick” Frisby returns to the starting side.
Nick Frisby, six career tries against the Rebels
Key Match Ups
Some players to watch this week.
Mitch Inman vs Samu Kerevi
One of the best defensive midfielders against possibly the most attacking. This season Kerevi is third in the competition for carries, second for defenders beaten and top ten for offloads. Inman and others will need to work hard to shut down his influence.
Ben Volavola vs Quade Cooper
On paper this should be no kind of match up at all but, Cooper’s form hasn’t been great and he seems to be carrying an injury. This is only Volavola’s second start at flyhalf for the Rebels and he is something of an unknown quantity. This battle could come down to which of the two makes fewer costly mistakes.
Amanaki Mafi vs Scott Higginbotham
This. This is the big one folks. In poor performing teams, these are the two form backrowers in Australia. This head-to-head match up alone justifies the price of admission.
For one reason, Mafi vs Higginbotham. Morbid curiosity could be another. Also, there is a pretty good chance that these two teams could put on a close and entertaining game even if the standard of play isn’t quite up to some of the other matches on offer this weekend.
Former Melbourne Rebels captain, Scott Higginbotham
It’s a hard one to call. The bookies and the Fox Sports tipsters both have the Reds as warm favourites but, the Rebels don’t have a bad record in recent Aussie derbies and the Reds is shocking.
I’m tipping the men from Melbourne to bounce back from their thrashing by the Lions to win by four points in a cliff hanger.
1. Toby Smith
2. James Hanson
3. Laurie Weeks
4. Steve Cummins
5. Dominic Day
6. Hugh Sinclair
7. Colby Fainga’a (Captain)
8. Amanaki Mafi
9. Ben Meehan
10. Ben Volavola
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Mitch Inman
13. Tom English
14. Sefa Naivalu
15. Reece Hodge
16. Siliva Siliva
17. Fereti Sa’aga
18. Tyrel Lomax
19. Culum Retallick
20. Sean McMahon
21. Harrison Goddard
22. Will Miller
23. Jack Maddocks
1. Sef Fa’agase
2. Stephen Moore
3. Sam Talakai
4. Rob Simmons
5. Lukhan Tui
6. Hendrik Tui
7. George Smith
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Nick Frisby
10. Quade Cooper
11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Samu Kerevi (Captain)
14. Campbell Magnay
15. Karmichael Hunt
16. Alex Mafi
17. Kirwan Sanday
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Izack Rodda
20. Adam Korczyk
21. Moses Sorovi
22. Hamish Stewart
23. Izaia Perese
Time: 7:30pm Saturday, May 13th
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistants: Shuhei Kubo, Ed Martin
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore
Forecast: Sunny, 17°. Light winds.
Statistics courtesy of OPTA Sports
Here’s what happened last time.