Preview: Melbourne Rebels Vs Sunwolves - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Melbourne Rebels Vs Sunwolves

Preview: Melbourne Rebels Vs Sunwolves

The Melbourne Rebels host the Human Communications Sunwolves for the first time this week at AAMI Park.

The Sunwolves have traveled from the stifling heat of Hong Kong to the cooler climate of Melbourne with a very different team to the side that defeated the Stormers last start.  This is a crucial game for the Melbourne Rebels to win if they are to remain in contention to play finals this year.


Prior to last week’s bye the Rebels snapped a five game losing streak with a hard fought win against the Brumbies. Early in the season the Rebels were flying high at the top of the Super Rugby ladder. Five consecutive losses, by a combined deficit of 113 points, has seen them drop to ninth place and in danger of missing the finals altogether. Hopefully the win in Canberra will have given the team a confidence boost with the knowledge that they are capable of coming back to snatch a game.

But, the Rebels need to improve in key areas.  They have the worst record in the competition for tackles made (81%), discipline (11.6 penalties per game), and goal kicking (62%). Combine these factors with their inability to get the ball into the hands of their outside backs and it isn’t hard to see why the team has struggled recently.

Although they have managed to push a couple of good teams in games this year, the Sunwolves form has generally been very poor, with nine consecutive losses to start the season. Two weeks ago they turned that form around with a big win against the Queensland Reds in Tokyo, followed that up in Hong Kong with a last gasp victory over the Stormers.

Their previous form may be no indication of future performance though. Several of their squad have been called in to a training camp to prepare for Japan’s upcoming test matches against Italy and Georgia. Among the players missing from the side are Michael Leach and former Rebels, Shota Horie and Kotaro Matsushima.

The side that runs on to AAMI Park this week will still feature a number of Japan’s test squad, but not the big stars.  The effects of travel and the Hong Kong humidity might have a big impact on the players fitness.

The two sides have met twice previously. Both times in Tokyo with both games ending in comfortable wins to the Rebels.


After starting every game this season, Jack Debreczeni has dropped out of the side and will be replaced in the Fly-half position by Reece Hodge. It’s worth noting that Hodge moved into the playmakers role during the second half comeback against the Brumbies. Tayler Adams has a chance to make his debut from the bench as Hodge’s backup.

Tetera Faulkner and Jermaine Ainsley are both out of the side this week and have been replaced on the bench by Ben Daley and, another potential debutant, Pone Fa’amausili.

Dane Haylett-Petty will make a welcome return to the starting side after recovering from concussion. Jordan Uelese also returns from injury and Sefa Naiavalu, after a couple of games for Box Hill, replaces Semisi Tupou. Both will start from the bench.

Dave Wessells summed up the side’s recent efforts… “In the early part of the season we focused on ourselves and tried to be brave,” he said.

“We knew things weren’t always going to be perfect one of the things that happened was we started to concede a lot of penalties. We coached and played in a way to mitigate some of those penalties, and as a consequence… we moved away from some of the stuff that had worked well for us.

“This week, and probably the last three weeks, we’ve really focused on moving back to the play that worked well for us – pretty confrontational, high-tempo, but at the same time quite brave.”


The Sunwolves have made the maximum number of changes to this week’s starting forward pack. Six new players will start while Grant Hattingh will move from the second row to Blindside Flanker and Ed Quirk shifts to the back of the scrum.

In fact, the only player to start in the same position as last week will be Hayden Parker at Fly-half. That’s a total of 14 changes!

Even the coach is a replacement with Tony Brown taking over from Jamie Joseph. Joseph has a second job as the national coach.

Player rotation is not something new for the Sunwolves, they have already used 43 players this season.

“Obviously we have lost a few of the Japan players and we have a couple of injuries as well,” said Brown.

He went on to say “The team’s a lot more confident after winning the last two games so we are confident we’re good enough to win as long as we prepare well and perform at our best”.

The Sunwolves have certainly played some attractive, attacking rugby at times this year but their defence has been very poor. They have conceded a total of 63 trys to date, 15 more than the next worst teams.



  1. Fereti Sa’aga
  2. Anaru Rangi
  3. Sam Talakai
  4. Matt Philip
  5. Adam Coleman (C)
  6. Angus Cottrell
  7. Colby Fa’ainga
  8. Amanaki Mafi
  9. Michael Ruru
  10. Reece Hodge
  11. Marika Koroibete
  12. Billy Meakes
  13. Tom English
  14. Jack Maddocks
  15. Dane Haylett-Petty



  16. Jordan Uelese
  17. Ben Daley
  18. Pone Fa’amausili
  19. Geoff Parling
  20. Lopeti Timani
  21. Harrison Goddard
  22. Tayler Adams
  23. Sefa Naivalu


  1. Craig Millar (C)
  2. Jaba Bregvadze
  3. Jiwon Koo
  4. James Moore
  5. Shinya Makabe
  6. Grant Hattingh
  7. Shunsuke Nunomaki
  8. Ed Quirk
  9. Keisuke Uchida
  10. Hayden Parker
  11. Hosea Saumaki
  12. Ryoto Nakamura
  13. Michael Little
  14. Lomano Lava Lemeki
  15. Jason Emery



  16. Atsushi Sakate
  17. Keita Inagaki
  18. Hencus van Wyk
  19. Sam Wykes
  20. Rahboni Warren-Vosayako
  21. Kaito Shigeno
  22. Harumichi Tatekawa
  23. Semisi Masirewa



Reece Hodge
All eyes, including Michael Cheika’s, will be on Hodge this week to see how he performs in the role of Fly-half. Will his distribution be good enough to unlock the potential in the Rebels’ backline?

Amanaki Mafi
Mafi is one of the players to watch in every game he plays, he is among the best ball carriers in rugby. It will be fun to watch him play at home against his adopted countrymen.

Lopeti Timani
After struggling for form in the early part of the season, “LT” has had a big impact coming off the bench in the last couple of games. He has had some strong carries and big hits in defence.


Hayden Parker
Parker has been the hero of the Sunwolves two recent wins. He has been distributing the ball well and is deadly accurate from the tee (96% accuracy). He won the game against the Stormers with a last minute penalty kick followed by a drop goal in the 84th minute.

Hosea Saumaki
Known as the “Tongan Godzilla”, Saumaki has been a one-man highlight reel for the Sunwolves. He has bagged seven trys in seven games, including a second half hattrick against the Reds, and has pulled off some amazing offloads.

Michael Little
Little moves from Inside to Outside Centre this week. He has a great step and will be a constant threat. He is in the top ten Super Rugby players for defenders beaten and a solid defender.


The Rebels will not want to take this game lightly, the Sunwolves are playing with confidence and are capable of scoring from anywhere. A win this week is vital to the Rebels’ chances of playing finals for the first time.  If the Waratahs should slip up, the Rebels are still a chance to top the Australian Conference.

Given the mass changes, and the fact they’ve never won away, I’m tipping the Rebels by twenty plus points.


Date: Friday, 25th May
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 7:45pm
Referee: Federico Anselmi
AR1: Jordan Way
AR2: Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith
Weather: Sunny afternoon, maximum of 16°


  • Bobas

    With Genia the Rebels would be close to the half century. Without him I think they’ll put 30 on. I hope they can defend it. Should be a great match, thanks for the preview.

    • Mr Wobbly

      Here’s a stat for you, Rebels have a points differential of +74 when Genia is on the field and -107 when he is not.

      • Mica

        Wow – that’s a crazy stat!

  • Adrian

    I don’t think this is a certainty at all.

    Debz out helps Rebs defence, but I still see them as a big team, more or less across the board. They don’t have much subtlety either.

    That suits Sunwolves, just as the Reds suited them. The Sunwolves are very agile, and (like they do most weeks) have fresh players. They can tackle big guys too….ma may except Maffi

    The Sunwolves weakness is defending against Maffi, Korebette and Timani if they get half a sniff. Hodge if he sees a gap created by someone else.

    My tip is Rebs… just…
    …mainly because their supporters will start leaving if they don’t

    • Huw Tindall

      Real hard one this isn’t it. On paper the Rebels should easily knock them off but with the form of the Sunwolves recently and the Rebels 60 minute performances it’s not a foregone conclusion. Hopefully the Rebels have a bit a form resurgence like the rest of the Aussie teams and they do this one easily and put on some confidence boosting tries coming into the June series.

      • Adrian

        After I made my post, I read that Sunwolves changed their team more than they usually do, by removing all of their Test players as well as the usual rotation.
        Rebs should do it bearing that in mind

        • Mr Wobbly

          Are you saying that you posted without reading the article? The horror! :)

        • Adrian

          I just looked at the pictures

        • GoMelbRebels

          I read the bits in bold text.

    • Mr Wobbly

      I don’t think it’s a certainty but if the Rebels can’t put this team away then they have no business talking finals.

      • James Pettifer

        The Rebels are 1 player down playing at home against the bottom ranked team who are missing 5 or so of their top players and who have never won an away game …. If they lose this, then you might as well take the team out back and shoot them

  • Brumby Runner

    We can be sure the Sunwolves will throw the ball around like a hot potato and will score at least one or two scintillating, long range tries. The Rebels’ success in scoring tries of their own will determine which side finishes on top in this game. I expect Parker will put the ball through the sticks more often than Hodge.

    • Mr Wobbly

      In 8 games, Parker has kicked at goal 27 times for 1 miss.

      I believe he kicked 28 straight in the Top League last season.

      He’s pretty good.

      • Missing Link

        Was just discussing this with a friend the other week. Parker has done well in moving from the Highlanders where he was stuck behind Sopoaga and Banks at the time – he was only getting 10 -15 minutes game time every now and then. Since moving to the Sunwolves, he’s shown that he’s a much better player than the Highlanders saw in him. Also realised he was never going to be an AB so he had nothing to lose.

  • Missing Link

    If I have to see Saumaki’s “phone call” try celebration again, I think I’ll puke

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I think you’re right mate although it may be closer as the Rebels really miss genia. Not just his play but his decision making and the way he gets the others working. Really looking forward to seeing how Hodge goes with a full game at 10.

  • John R

    Finally someone else is given a shot at 5/8.

    Will be interesting to see how Tayler Adams goes too, he looks to be of the flashy fly half mould, which (apart from one Club rugby loving player on deep 6 figures) we don’t have too many of running around in Aus rugby at the moment.

    • Mica

      Also, I think no matter how Hodge plays, he will be an improvement over the previous incumbent.

      • John R

        Agreed there. Sorry Jack, you’ve had plenty of chances….

    • Mr Wobbly

      I think JD has been very good in a few games but only when Genia has been playing at 9. When Genia was on the field JD seemed to be able to play a bit deeper and have a bit more time.

      One thing is for sure, going forward from this season, the Rebels need a quality fly-half if they want to keep improving. It would be good if it turned out to be Hodge or Maddocks (or *cough*, Quade *cough*) but it needs to be someone that can open up the backline.

      • John R

        I’d agree with you there Mr Wobbly.

        Which makes me wonder if Genia is handling all the playmaking, and JD is just a moving part that Genia is actively managing?

        • Missing Link

          My opinion is that JD has looked good in the past due to having Tamati Ellison and Mike Harris in the same backline.

  • Keith Butler

    Should be a win for the Rebels but they need to be switched on for the full 80 mins and show the Wolves the respect they deserve otherwise they could come unstuck. The Sunwolves played with a passion and commitment to the team which other SR teams sometimes lack. Looking forward to an open running game. Interesting to see how Hodge goes at 10.

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