Rebels v Waratahs preview - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Rebels v Waratahs preview

Rebels v Waratahs preview

The finals start two rounds earlier as the Rebels and Waratahs fight for the all important final spot in the finals.

The equation is simple:
– If the Waratahs can manage a bonus point victory (without the Rebels earning one in defeat), the Rebels season is over.
– A Waratahs victory without a bonus point/Rebels earning a bonus point in defeat would mean that a Rebels victory over the Force next week securing their spot
– A Rebels victory locks up the finals a week early, eliminating the Tahs from contention.


The Rebels got off to a shaky start, opening their season with a loss to the Brumbies and a draw to the Reds.

However, their dominant round four win over the Waratahs proved a catalyst for a mid-season turnaround, securing victories over the Force and Brumbies in coming weeks.

They were brought back down to Earth with a shattering 19-3 loss to the Reds despite over 90% possession and 80% territory in the second half ahead of their second bye of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Waratahs have had a very inconsistent season, losing three out of the first four games despite nearly upsetting the Brumbies on home soil.

They looked a completely different side after their round five bye with dominant victories over the Reds and Force before they were humbled by the Brumbies in Canberra.

Team News

The Rebels will once again be without captain Dane Haylett Petty but will be boosted after Matt Toomua passed a fitness test on his injured neck.

In other changes, fan favourite Pone Fa’amausili drops to the bench in place of Wallaby Jermaine Ainsley whilst former Waratah Michael Wells come into the lineup, replacing Josh Kemeny.

Michael Stolberg and Tom Pincus also come onto the bench for Charlie Abel and Esei Ha’angana as Dave Wessels opts for a six forward, two back split.

Jake Gordon box kicks from scrum Waratahs v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

For the Waratahs, Dave Rennie has opted for league convent Tepai Moeroa to play inside centre as Karmichael Hunt continues to recover from injury, with Joey Walton shifting to outside centre.

Meanwhile, Lalakai Foketi slots out of the side with Will Harris coming onto the bench for Hugh Sinclair.

Key Match-Ups

Jack Demspey v Isi Naisarani
12 months ago, Demspey and Naisarani were battling it out to claim the vacant number eight jersey. Now they seem to be on the outside looking in after the emergence of Harry Wilson and the versatile Pete Samu.

Dempsey remains on the outer of the PONI squad but has been one of the best for the Waratahs during their mid-season revival, providing some much need aggression and physicality in attack and defence. Meanwhile, Naisarani gave everyone a reminder of his class as he barged over to secure the ‘Super Time’ win for the Rebels against the Force.

For either side to win, they need their big number eights to step up and dominate the advantage line. If they do so, then they could see themselves in the Wallabies 23 come October/November/whenever they get clearance.

Jack Dempsey makes his Wallaby debut

Jack Dempsey makes his Wallaby debut

Matt Toomua v Tepai Moeroa
Rarely you see such a contrast in styles and experience at this level of rugby.

Rebels inside centre Matt Toomua has become one of the most experienced players in the competition, with his silky playmaking and pinpoint kicking guiding the Rebels around the park. Meanwhile, Tepai Moeroa has only played nine minutes of Super Rugby since he moved from rugby league as Ron Penney looks for some abrasion and grunt in the midfield.

It represents a stark difference in tactics: Rebels looking for a dual-playmaker set-up in order to allow them to attack from both sides and maximise their kicking game whilst the Waratahs have gone for a ‘bash and barge’ approach as they look to shore up their defence and play for territory.


I think the Waratahs have really turned the corner since their bye and with their season on the line, I expect them to find a way to cause the upset and keep their slim finals hopes alive.

The news of Hooper heading overseas should inspire the upset victory against the DHP-less Rebels, who will likely have one eye on next week’s clash against the Force.

Expect a high-scoring contest with the boot of Will Harrison proving the difference.

Match Prediction: Waratahs by 5
Bold Prediction: Harrison 15+ points

Match Details

Rebels (1-15): Cameron Orr, Jordan Uelese, Jermaine Ainsley, Matt Philip, Trevor Hosea, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin, Isi Naisarani, Frank Lomani, Andrew Deegan, Marika Koroibete, Matt Toomua, Campbell Magnay, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge.

Reserves: Efitusi Maafu, Cabous Eloff, Pone Fa’amausili, Michael Stolberg, Richard Hardwick, James Tuttle, Billy Meakes, Tom Pincus.

Waratahs (1-15): Tom Robertson, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey, Jake Gordon, Will Harrison, Alex Newsome, Tepai Moeroa, Joey Walton, James Ramm, Jack Maddocks.

Reserves: Robbie Abel, Tetera Faulkner, Angus Bell, Tom Staniforth, Hugh Sinclair, Mitch Short, Ben Donaldson, Nick Malouf.

Date: Saturday August 29
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Kick-off: 7:15 pm AEST
Where to Watch: Fox Sports 3 (Channel 503)

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Nathan, big call and I’m not sure you’re correct. I think as much as the Rebels stuffed up against the Reds with no backup plan from pick and go close to the line I’m not sure that the Tahs have the same power on defence that the Reds have and I thin k if this occurs the Rebels will get over the line. Tahs are lacking big forwards that can make a difference and I think Dempsey struggle a bit as he has to do it all himself. I’m picking Rebels by 12+

    • Mica

      Now that’s a bold prediction.
      Without Louwrens at scrum half I think they will struggle. Have not seen enough of the good stuff from Lomani to think he is anything other than a bit of a plodder.
      I reckon the packs will be pretty even as are the backlines; although I’d lean towards the Rebels on experience and a touch of class.
      This will be one that comes down to discipline and desire I think. Also I don’t think the Rebs will be thinking about next week at all. They’ll be focused on trying to knock the Tahs out of the comp this weekend.

    • Geoffro

      earlier I predicted Tahs by 3 and Im with Nathan.Harrison to bag a few points and make the difference

    • Hoss

      Maaaaate, quickly, stop whatever you’re doing and dial 000 or whatever you dial in NZ for an emergency (RSPCA ???) – although i never finished medical skool i believe you are have a stage 5 stroke or some sort of medical episode causing faeces to spill forward onto your keyboard.


      • Geoffro

        it’s 999.All Kiwi’s know this because that’s what they call when the AB’s lose a game

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Hahahaha that’s gold

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        You forget I’m a kiwi so i know rugby. Drinking it in from mums milk or whatever

    • Keith Butler

      Yep. The Rebs definitely need a plan B and C. Pick and drive does not always end in a pie and with the law changes can lead to a drop out under the posts. Besides which it is very boring.

    • I agree with the winning side – I’m biased, but I agree with your reasoning too. However, 12+. You’ve been taking the KoolAid my man! Not sipping it, drinking it by the gallon.

      It could blow out like that, I guess. I think the Tahs are young enough to be fragile, as we saw last week, but I’m not sure the Rebels are ruthless enough to do that though. A 7-14 point margin, comfortable enough that I’m not sweating, but not a blow out feels more likely to me.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Tahs have no mental fortitude. Too much self entitlement and A belief in their own press. They’ll fold like an old ladies bra

  • donktec

    i’m not a betting man, but i’m tossing a coin to pick this game, could go either way. Rebels to win if they can figure out how to score when close to the line. Tah’s if the backs get a chance to throw the ball and run wide. a, each way bet there!! The game against the Reds was frustrating to watch. But the general perspective here was that it was epic defense that held them out.

  • Hoss

    Thanks Nath,

    One omission and perhaps a failure to see the bigger picture – who is it the Tah’s will play in the finals is the only real question.

    You’re welcome.


    • Keith Butler

      Such hubris mon ami. Careful that it does come back and bite you in the arse. A very close game to call. If Gardiner is reffing then I’d have to go with the Tahts. Angus has an inborn, being a NSWallian, dislike of the Rebs and penalises accordingly.

      • Hoss

        My confidence cost me a bottle of Irish whisky last week en-route to Monsieur Nutta as we speak.

        • Keith Butler

          I have not forgotten that I owe you a bottle of your favourite bourbon which I will repay when we next meet up.

        • Nutta

          And so the circle of alcoholism life continues…

        • Keith Butler

          I think I recall bringing said bottle with me when we met in Brissie but the Hossman politely declined because he could take it back into NSW. Mind you my memory may have been slightly addled. It was a real hardship as I had to consume it myself.

        • Nutta

          It’s through such sacrifice and pain whereby friends are furnaced to be kin

        • Hoss

          I only had carry-on and weren’t allowed it.

        • Keith Butler

          Next time bring a suitcase!

        • Hoss

          Words to live by.

        • Hoss

          I had !!

    • Nutta


      • Hoss

        Keep quiet and drink your whiskey, it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover


  • Nutta

    I’m really looking forward to this one as I smell a Scum victory on the basis of a Tarts implosion. The Tarts SHOULD win this by any objective assessment on paper and that’s why I’m tipping against them because I just don’t think they have reached a level of bankable maturity yet. I think they are on the way, but not there yet. Therefore the scrappers stand a a better than evens chance.

    You Rebels claim the Southern Cross as your standard. You assume the hallmarks of Eureka as your spiritual petard. Then well you remember your Peter Lalor origins Boyo’s. It’s a story of pride and stature achieved despite depredation, despite inherent disadvantage and in bald-faced defiance of the years of humiliation at the hands of those who considered themselves your superiors, your betters and those who simply considered they stood higher than you by right of an accident of geography.

    So your challenge is clear; bash those uppity, invasive, presumptive sky-blue bastards in their pretty pastel uniforms back into their Victoria Barracks villas.

    Then bonfire your victory with primal scream and gallons of rum! And send the invisible shackles of oppression skyward in billowing clouds as you burn their foul broken bodies in the flames of catharsis.

    Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!

    Sorry. Got a bit carried away…

    Rebels to win.

    • Keith Butler

      Could not agree more. It was interesting to see the body language of some of the a Tahts last week. Just after halftime I looked and thought that if the Ponies score next they will run away with it and so it proved. Sure they have a decent squad of young talent but they don’t seem to have the glue of old hands to bind them together.

      • Hambone

        Definately missing hunt marshalling the back line.

    • Geoffro

      It’s Oxford blue old chap and channeling the memory of a bunch of oirish rabble will not prevail over the flower of australian rugby

      • Nutta

        Bah! Give us our future without shedding more blood, or we’ll be taking it from ye anyways. For we’ve had enough of your butcherin’ past.

        (Now many may think that’s a bastardised Michael Collins quote, but he actually misquoted Lalors original…)

        • Geoffro

          yeah,I think the original was ‘orright,oim off te da tav fer a wee tippel noo’

        • Nutta

          Something like that.

    • donktec

      a rousing half-time speech for the ages!

      • Nutta

        Which bit? Burning their carcasses or shedding their blood?

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          All of it

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      Gold mate

    • Hambone

      Love it.. sounds like rum is to the beverage of choice tonight as I watch those pastel baby blues get pillaged all night in their own back yard.. haha

      • Nutta

        ‘Tis a drink for all occasions.

  • David G

    Rebs to win by 10

  • Scott Rea

    Nathan, great article, although I don’t think Rebels will be looking to next week. If the Rebels win they qualify for finals for the first time.

    The Rebels should win. However, they often don’t win when they should and given what is at stake I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rebels lose. There have been a number of opportunities in the last 2 years to qualify for finals which they haven’t taken.

    Come on Rebels, show me that my doubts are wrong and qualify for the finals.

    • laurence king

      If Wessels can’t get the side to win this one, he should walk away

  • Rebels to win the key match-ups. That said the light-weight Waratah forward pack my surprise again. For mine the Rebels will do enough to deny the Warathas a place in the finals.

Melbourne Rebels

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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