Preview: Rebels v Bulls - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Rebels v Bulls

Preview: Rebels v Bulls

The Rebels are hosting the Bulls in a match which should be an absolute cracker.

Both sides are second in their respective conferences, sitting 6th (Rebels) and 7th (Bulls) both on 28 points with only 3 points separating them on points difference.

Form

Rebels

The Rebels got back on the winners’ list last Friday against the Queensland Reds with a 30 – 24 victory at AAMI Park. Prior to that, the Rebels had three losses in a row against the Stormers, Waratahs and Hurricanes with a bye in the middle. The Rebels would have been happier with a performance which was closer to an 80-minute performance than their one half of good rugby in their matches v the Hurricanes and Waratahs.

In three games this season the Rebels have not won a game against South African opponents.

Bulls

The Bulls were beaten soundly at home by the Crusaders 45 to 13. Although given the current ladder (in terms of points) has the Crusaders 1st, Hurricanes 2nd and daylight 3rd, we shouldn’t read too much into this result. Prior to the Crusaders loss, the Bulls defeated the Waratahs 28 to 21 and prior to that lost a thriller to the Stormers 24 to 23.

In contrast to the Rebels, the Bulls have played two Australian sides winning both, with the other win being against the Reds 32 to 17. In their last five matches the Bulls have gone loss, win, loss, win, loss, so based on that pattern are due for a win.

Line ups

Rebels

The Rebels have suffered a double blow to their forward pack with Isi Naisarani (foot) and Luke Jones (fractured eye socket) both unavailable. Naisarani has the equal third most carries in the competition and Jones is in the top ten for lineouts won. Naisarani and Jones are also the two Rebels with the most runs this season.

Naisarani and Jones have been replaced in the starting side by Richard Hardwick and Rob Leota, who have both moved from the bench. Matt To’omua has been named on the bench for his first game in Rebels colours and Sam Jeffries returns from injury for his first game of the season.

I am surprised that Quade Cooper has been selected after coming out on the wrong end of a Samu Kerevi charge last Friday. Cooper was in Disneyland for a number of minutes after the contact. I thought he would have failed the concussion protocol. Although there is still a chance that he may be a late withdrawal.

Starting Team

1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Rob Leota, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Reece Hodge, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty.

Reserves: 16. Hugh Roach, 17. Matt Gibbon, 18. Sam Talakai, 19. Sam Jeffries, 20. Pone Fa’amausili, 21. Michael Ruru, 22. Campbell Magnay, 23. Matt To’omua

Bulls

Star full back Warrick Gelant returns to the Bulls’ line up this week. Gelant will take some pressure off Handré Pollard, in terms of his kicking game as he has the second most kick metres for the Bulls in 2019. Hanro Liebenberg comes back into the team at openside flanker, Liebenberg has laid the second most tackles for the Bulls this season.

Paul Schoeman has been promoted from the bench to the starting lineup whilst Marco van Staden, Jannes Kirsten and Divan Rossouw have moved from the starting lineup onto the bench.  Thembelani Bholi and Dylan Sage have dropped out of the game day 23.

Starting Team

1. Lizo Gqoboka, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 4. Jason Jenkins, 5. RG Snyman, 6. Paul Schoeman, 7. Hanro Liebenberg, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. André Warner, 10. Handré Pollard, 11. Rosko Specman, 12. Burger Odendaal, 13. Johnny Kotze, 14. Cornal Hendricks, 15. Warrick Gelant.

Reserves: 16. Jaco Visagie, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Wiehahn Herbst, 19. Jannes Kirsten, 20. Marco van Staden, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Manie Libbok, 23. Divan Rossouw

Players to Watch

Rebels

Reece Hodge

Reece Hodge is the Rebels all-time leading try and point scorer and can play pretty much anywhere in the back line. Last week he stepped into the void (along with Billy Meakes) left by Quade Cooper when he went off concussed. Hodge made two breaks that created tries for Tetera Faulkner and Dane Haylett-Petty.

Hodge’s booming kick is also something to keep an eye out for, whether it be in general play or if the Bulls’ discipline is lacking around the half way line and Hodge attempts a long-range penalty goal.

Anaru Rangi

Anaru Rangi has been one of the main reasons that the Rebels’ lineouts have improved dramatically this season. Rangi is an ultra-competitor, who gives his all. He runs hard with the ball and tackles hard without it. And along the way may have rubbed up his opponents and opposition fans the wrong way. The kind of person you would love to have in your team but would hate if he is in the opposition.

Matt To’omua

Matt To’omua is set to play his first game in the blue Rebels jersey after receiving a release from his contract by Leicester one week earlier than expected. Leicester had one match remaining but could not make the finals and were safe from relegation. Wallaby back To’omua’s arrival could not have been better timed after Quade Cooper was concussed last week. On numerous occasions this year Rebels fans have asked when does Matt To’omua arrive, well he is finally here. To’omua’s versatility is one of his key strengths and has spent most of his time at either fly half or inside centre, he even spent some time at fullback for Leicester this season. Assuming Cooper plays, he will at least take some pressure off him for the next five weeks.

Bulls

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard is the highest point scorer in the 2019 Super Rugby season with 144 points. He is the leading point scorer by some distance with Sunwolves’ Hayden Parker second with 98 points. The Rebels will need to watch their discipline in their defensive half because Pollard will make them pay for any ill-discipline. Pollard will use his general kicking game to try and pin the Rebels deep in their own half.

Duane Vermeulen

The experienced number eight Duane Vermeulen returned to South Africa this season after a number of years at Toulon and a short stint in Japan. Vermeulen has played 46 tests for the Springboks and brings physicality and ball carrying-ability to the Bulls. Vermeulen has 441 run metres for the season, which is third for the Bulls and also has five pilfers, which is the most for the Bulls this season. He is only likely to be available for the Australian section of the Bulls’ Trans-Tasman due to the Springboks Rugby World Cup resting policy. So, he will be keen to make his efforts v the Rebels and the Brumbies count.

Rosko Specman

Rosko Specman, after spending five years playing for the South African Sevens team, joined the Bulls at the start of the season. Specman has speed to burn and is unmistakable with his hair style. He scored a double in his Super Rugby debut and is the equal leading try scorer for the Bulls this season with four. Specman has made ten line breaks and 14 tackle busts in eight games this season. Last week v the Crusaders, after receiving the ball on the halfway line, Specman broke a tackle, put on a step and ran 25 metres before putting in a chip kick before being unlucky not to regather the kick. Bulls fans and neutral fans will be hoping for some Specmagic at AAMI Park (no doubt a lot of Rebels fans would be happy to see some Specmagic on the proviso that the Rebels win the match).

What to expect

Both teams have been great at lineout time this season, being the first two teams for lineouts won – Bulls (93.3%) and Rebels (91.7%). As their ladder position would suggest the two sides are even in a number of statistics – Clean breaks – Bulls and Rebels 107 each, Meters carried – Rebels 4,291 and Bulls 4,270, carries – Bulls 1,182 and Rebels 1,181. One stat that is vastly different is the two teams avenue to points, the Rebels have scored 42 tries compared to the Bulls 24. Hence, why Pollard is so far ahead on the top point scorers table. The Rebels will need to be on top of their discipline, the Rebels have received seven yellow cards over the season compared to only two for the Bulls.

Prediction

Amazingly, there are just eight points separating 3rd (29) from 14th (21) on the ladder (ignoring the fact that the Hurricanes are technically 4th with 40 points). Given the tightness of the ladder and finals ramifications, it is almost a must-win match for both teams. The saying goes there is a first time for everything (although after nine seasons the Rebels still have not won in South Africa) but I will say after a hard-fought game that the Rebels at home will have their first win against South African opponents in 2019 … Rebels by 5 points

Match Details

Rebels v Bulls at AAMI Park

Friday 17 May at 7:45pm AEDT

Referee: Federico Anselmi

AR1: Damon Murphy

AR2: Aaron Pook

TMO: Ian Smith

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Scott, isn’t it great to see such a close conference this year. I think the loss of Jones and Narisarani will hurt the Rebels and the rest of the forwards really need to step up or they might not get much ball. I think Koroibete is a liability and will be targeted by the Bulls. I really don’t know why he is continued with as game after game he makes the same mistakes and yet there doesn’t appear to be any consequences for this. TBH this game could go either way but I think the Rebels at home will have a slight advantage over the travelling Bulls and that should be enough. Less than 6 points in it to me

    • Brisneyland Local

      KRL, I think and hope you are right. The road trip will have tired the Bulls out, and the Rebs being at home, with some fresh attacking legs in the back. If their scrum holds like last weeks and the piggies can at least hold parity in the dirty work, I reckon the Rebs will sneak over the line. But it is going to be close.

    • Keith Butler

      That famous line ‘should be a cracker’ inevitably turns out to be the opposite. However, I’m optimistic that the Rebs will take this one. No probs with the front row and Phillip and RHP strike me as a pair of hard grafting locks, just what we’ll need against the Bulls. In spite of losing Jones and Narisarani I reckon the back row will step up. At times last week it looked, to me at least, that Narisarani was coasting. Leota will not let us down. Mostly happy with the backs although QC could do with a break. Koribete would not be in my 23.

  • theduke

    The Rebels forwards need to up their game this week to deal with the loss of Naisarani and Jones. The Rebels were impressive against the reds in that they always seemed to advance up the field. The saffas tend to get them on the back foot and Quade runs out of options. I’m hopeful Wessels has learnt from past experience and alters the game plan to accommodate.

  • IIPA

    Koreibete trying to tackle or read what Spekman is going to do could be farcical if they match up.

    I agree Coopers selection is an eye-brow raiser. Rebels have a shocking history of 10 recruitment and development starting with bringing over Cipriani as a “marquee”, trying to slot a young Hegarty there straight out of league, then Garden Bachop and in the last 18months have let Deb, Adams and MacGregor go. Can’t help but think if they had a backup who hadn’t just flown over from the UK, Cooper wouldn’t be starting.

    • Dylan Langes

      Ive always wondered why they let Adams and MacGregor go, especially since Adams is now playing Club footy. Ive got big wraps on Dunbar though, I liked what I saw in preseason and maybe if he can stay on the roster a little longer he can be a serious option.
      JGB and Deb had a fair few chances, same as Ben Volavola so I wasn’t overly concerned when they left. 10 is a hard position to play and even harder to play well. I couldn’t do it.

      • IIPA

        Forgot about Dunbar. Definitely has potential.

  • GO THE Q REDS

    The Bulls play an almost exact opposite game style this year than last. A massive shift with coaches changes! Last year they stubbornly kicked for touch religiously, this year Pollard kicks for points! Hopefully the rebels don’t forget that! Pollard hasn’t been in good form the last few games so hopefully rebels make the most of that aswell! The 2 worst teams in the Saffa n Aus conference at beating overseas teams…… something has to give!

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