Preview - Are The Rebels a Force? - Green and Gold Rugby
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Preview – Are The Rebels a Force?

Preview – Are The Rebels a Force?

I’m Xaviera, and I’m a Waratahs fan.

There, I’ve said it. Now I can start the 12 steps…

In keeping with the theme of disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Simon Cron, having seen first hand what he did with Norths. I’m also fond of Daryl Gibson. He’s a good human, although shy, and one on one, he has a quiet aura about him. So, for all these reasons, I really want to see the 1874 boys and girls do well on the rugby field. But we’re only three matches in, and already it’s a tough gig being a Waratahs fan.

Trying to establish a form line for this match has been tricky. Let’s start with the Tahs. Touched up by the Highlanders in the pre-season, but solid when the A-team were on the field, they then came out and pantsed the Rebels at Brookie, 47-5. Key points to note from that match – it was tight until Adam Coleman left the field injured, the Rebels water boy was some bloke called Sanchez, and the Tahs only kicked into gear when the Rebels starting losing bodies to the naughty chairs. The Tahs finishers then did their job. From there, the Tahs pulled one out of the bag at home against the Stormers, a match they would have lost last year. They had another near-death experience in Durban, ending up with a snog from their sister. Again, a match that would have been lost last year. Despite all this, they turned up again last weekend, albeit 30 minutes late.

What about the Rebels? They got lucky in their first match, with two massive brain farts from the Reds giving them a huge leg-up, and even then, the Reds led, despite being down two bodies. Interestingly, the referee that night was the same bloke we’ll have on Sunday. They then had the benefit of a good onsen and the opportunity to work on their playbook as they took on the much improved, but still brittle and injury-ravaged, Sunwolves. Perhaps the most interesting match was against the horses – can someone tell me what is going on in Canberra? Has the Beetrooter snuck into the Brumbies camp? Has someone nuked Fyshwick? Whatever it is, they’re not happy campers and so the Rebels ran away with it.

*Onsen = Japanese hot springs.

Folau runs for the line

A clean pair of heels. The Tahs need plenty of this.


So where does that leave us? Nothing if not intrigued. George Lucas’s blokes look like they’re buying into Ben Darwin’s theory of cohesion, and the merger of west and south seems to be coming along nicely, although I think Mafi may have taken the Hollywood aura a little too far after his recent collision with an angry gnat. But have they really been tested? Plus they’ve played two matches at home, and one away against a team rated 0.1% chance of making the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, the Tahs have been a conundrum.

So, it’s a chance for both teams to send some clear messages. Is the Rebel Force the real deal, or are they just pretenders? Have the Waratahs been lucky so far, or unlucky? How will they survive their journey around the globe? Will Weary Dunlop return to Melbourne?


Where to start? The big-ticket items.

The halves. Wise old Willy against the newbie young buck (and his understudy. Hands up if you could pick Mick Snowden out of a lineup? Thought not.). Jack (keeping 10 warm for…Jack?) opposite the Wallaby incumbent who, despite kicking 100%, has been flat.

The back three. Izzy v DHP – the two best aerial players in Australia, and possibly world rugby, plus their partners in crime. High balls, defensive reads, involvement all key here.

X-Factor. KB v Jack Maddocks. The former seems to have recovered from his rib damage, the latter has been on fire (as an aside, how good would he be in sevens? Surely Andy Friend must be sniffing around?). Should be electric.

The packs. As ever, these blokes will decide who wins, and those behind them will determine the margin. The Tahs have been less than best, the Rebels solid. The Tahs have some old hands back on deck to steady the ship, so this should be a ripper confrontation.

Amanaki Mafi, Rebels v Panasonic Wild Knights

Wrecking ball. Kryptonite – Game of Thrones refugees.


After their poor scrummaging in Durban, I was fearful Jed Holloway was going to end up performing involuntary colonoscopies on his locks in Buenos Aires, but the scrum seemed to be less worse than expected. That won’t stop the Rebels targeting it, perhaps with a view to inducing a yellow card, which could turn the match.

Both teams like to run the ball, and they’ve both clocked up serious run metres, with the Vics sitting 4th, their northern cousins 7th. The Tahs have lacked penetration through the forwards, so they may have to go around and over instead, but that will require winning some decent pill first.

The Rebs have had some discipline issues, with the worst penalty count in the competition, but so far have got away with it. Eventually, it will catch up with them, and they haven’t managed to improve this facet of their game much, so a potential Achilles Heel.

This could and should be a close one so the finishers may well determine the outcome. That didn’t work well at Brookie for the visitors, but things have changed since then.

Sydney 7s 2018 Star Wars fans

Tahs fans ready themselves for the invaders.


In a reflection of how difficult it is to pick a winner, taking into account all of the above, the bookies have the Tahs favourite! Despite a 1-1-1 record, despite serious travel, despite an incomplete game, despite a dysfunctional scrum. I hope they’re right. If so, it will make the conference a ripper. If not, then the Rebels will open up a significant lead, and the rest of the teams will be playing for second, and a long shot at a finals berth. It will also mean the Rebels will have passed another test and will be one step closer to being the real deal. If so, their next test will be their first match-up against the bros from across the dutch. So, with hand on heart, Tahs by 1. And pass me a drink.


Date: Sunday 18th March 2018
Venue: Allianz Stadium Sydney
Kick-off: 16:05 local (AEDT)
Referee: Brendan Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Federico Anselmi (AR1) Graham Cooper (AR2)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore



1. Tom Robertson
2. Damien Fitzpatrick
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Ned Hanigan
5. Rob Simmons
6. Michael Wells
7. Michael Hooper (C)
8. Jed Holloway
9. Mitch Short
10. Bernard Foley (VC)
11. Curtis Rona
12. Kurtley Beale
13. Lalakai Foketi
14. Israel Folau
15. Bryce Hegarty


16. Hugh Roach
17. Harry Johnson-Holmes
18. Paddy Ryan
19. Tom Staniforth
20. Will Miller
21. Mick Snowden
22. Alex Newsome
23. Taqele Naiyaravoro


1.  Tetera Faulkner
2.  Anaru Rangi
3. Jermaine Ainsley
4. Matt Philip
5.  Adam Coleman (c)
6.  Lopeti Timani
7.  Ross Haylett-Petty
8.  Amanaki Mafi
9.  Will Genia
10.  Jack Debreczeni
11. Marika Koroibete
12.  Reece Hodge
13.  Tom English
14.  Jack Maddocks
15.  Dane Haylett-Petty


16.  Mahe Vailanu
17.  Ben Daley
18.  Sam Talakai
19.  Colby Fainga’a
20.  Richard Hardwick
21.  Michael Ruru
22.  Billy Meakes
23.  Sefa Naivalu

  • The Celt

    Rebels by 14 … they’ll blow the tahs forwards off the pitch!

  • Jimmydubs

    Can’t help but remember Wessels and his team humping the tahs at the end of last season. Given he’s got an improved squad this time around I can’t see a different outcome.

    • Patrick

      Can we please put a “t” in front of the operative verb there?

      • Jimmydubs


        • Patrick

          Thank you, I’m completely stoked for the Rebels to thump them but a bit more ambivalent about a public mass humping…

        • Xaviera

          Right part of Sydney, but all that happens in the adjacent suburbs.

  • formerflanker

    DHP v Bryce Hegarty. Izzy is listed at 14.

    • Xaviera

      A few points:
      The preview, by necessity, was written before the teams were announced;
      I talk about the “back three” deliberately;
      Irrespective of the number on their backs, it’ll be Izzy and DHP doing the aerial work, especially in attack. Each team may well target the channels where they are not in defence, but it still makes for a fascinating part of the game.

      • formerflanker

        Great prediction. Spot on.

        • Xaviera

          Thanks. I always love it when a plan comes together.

  • Colin Morris

    Kurtley – hey Bernard, are we going to get creamed?
    Bernard – No Kurtley, we’re going to get buttered
    Kurtley – what’s buttered?
    Bernard – it’s similar to creamed it lasts longer and the pounding is more intense

    • Brisneyland Local

      Pure Gold!

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well written mate. You point out the weaknesses in the Rebels quite well with their discipline being the biggest one. Also, as you say they haven’t really been tested yet so it’ll be interesting. I have bigger concerns though with the Tahs. My main issue is that Foley and KB aren’t clicking. Foley’s distribution seems to have got worse and neither KB or Folau are finding the room they need to do their magic. KB seems to be crabbing too much looking for space and he’s being shut down. Folau seems to be having even more problems with his defence this year although I personally am glad he’s on the wing as I think he’ll be better there. I think Rebels will take this but if the Tahs click and get some go forward they’ll prove difficult.

    • Tim

      Rebels forwards will put them to the sword. They have size and know how to use it. If the game is close towards the end Colby Fainga’a and Richard Hardwick will finish them off. The only way the Tahs will come close is if there forwards put pressure around the field which i haven’t seen yet.

      • Xaviera

        Not a Simmons fan, but he will help. Sekope is the big plus for the Tahs – a strong anchor in the scrum, and a beast with ball in hand. Looking forward to seeing how well that works.

    • Xaviera

      No doubt Foley has been a bit off, as I’ve noted above. Part of the problem has been lack of penetration from the pack, which has forced his hand, and he’s overplayed things. He works best with a bit more space, and then he’s dangerous. It’s had a trickle down effect with KB and Izzy too, so it’s critical we see some go forward from the pigs. I reckon it’ll be a ripper of a match.

      • I think it’s a repetitive game plan with static runners. No-one is running the angle or hitting the line at speed, hence no depth as you say.
        Foley should kick in behind and turn them around a few times to create doubt and maybe then they’ll get go foreward

  • Mattchoo

    Thanks Xaviera – a great read! Very brave of you to even admit being a Tahs fan these days. With DHP jumping for the high balls and Bryce Hegarty at fullback I’m pretty worried that there’s a game winning strategy for the Rebels right there. Combine that with the Rebels scrum versus ours and things are looking pretty concerning indeed for (we few remaining) Tahs supporters.
    I’ll be there though (hoping the Tahs actually turn up to play) and baking in the sun in Bay 35.

    • Xaviera

      So you had the guns out and the blue letters on the bare chest? Otherwise, SFA people in Bay 35, and in that oven, understandable!

      • Mattchoo

        Hey Xaviera, great to hear from you!
        My guns are more like pistols but my son was with me and his definitely qualify. Yes, we baked in the the sun, sweating and drinking water – feeling for the poor guys actually playing in that heat. Mind you, we did imbibe some beer before the game at the Paddo. Best second half of footy from the Tahs since at least 2015 and probably 2014. It made the whole experience so worth it. I was (so happily) wrong on both counts in my initial comments above – Hegarty had a great game and our scrum, even after Paddy Ryan came on, held up! Dod you get to the game??

        • Xaviera

          I was there. Disconsolate early, but stoked by the end of it. DHP’s loss massive for the Rebels, especially in the context of the Tahs’s aerial attack. The Tahs’ half-time talk centred around patience, building the phases, and making the Rebels work for the ball at the breakdown, and it worked.

        • Mattchoo

          Xaviera, you sound like you have very good info on what goes on during the half time talks. I thought Gibson must have added something to the water but of course, it was a bit more than that. Your points sound very spot on to me.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Hey Xaviera, great write up. Great that Kepu has returned but I think that will only highlight how uneven the scrum will be as Robertson is shite, and he is my top tip for a yellow card from the scrum. Foley as you pointed out is really struggling this year, but it isnt just behind a poor pack, his in hand kicking is still well below par, especially for cleanrances out of their 22. Which is putting more pressure on the team, becuase he cant get teh yardage. His tee kicking has been a strong point this year. It is also a sad state when we are all hoping that Rob Simmons will bring some more drive to the forward pack. As Hoss states he has as much strength as fairy floss.
    If the Tahs pack disintergrates (which is highly likely) the Rebels by 14. If the tahs pack can at best hold parity, then the Rebels by 5.

  • andrewM

    “It will also mean the Rebels will have passed another test and will be one step closer to being the real deal.”
    Not it won’t, it will only prove that the entire process last year was a complete farce.

  • Brumby Runner

    Kepu back is a positive but I think Faulkner will probably handle him better than Robertson will handle Ainsley, who seems to be improving with every outing.

    But the rest of the Tahs’ pack is so far inferior to the Rebels pack that I can see a blow out in the scoreline, favouring the Rebels by about 20 odd. If it’s anything less, then I fear none of the Aus sides will be competitive v the NZ sides. Our last hope to feel good about ourselves this year lies in the Rebels’ collective hands.

  • Xaviera

    How about that?

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