Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at an extension for a deserving Rebel, the injury update for a promising Red, the Brumbies looking forward to staking their Wallaby claims and the Waratahs continue to ignore calls to rest players.
Rangi signs extension
Hooker Anaru Rangi has been rewarded for a strong 2019 season for the Rebels, signing a two-year extension until 2021.
Rangi joined the Rebels in 2017 as part of the dirty dozen that came over to Victoria after the excommunication of the Western Force from the Super Rugby and he has developed cult-like status in Melbourne due to his fearless style of play and his wild, long hair.
Rangi was excited to remain in his adopted home, which he believes to be the best place for his continued development, which was recognised in 2018 when he was awarded Rebels player’s player.
“It’s a great program, it’s an awesome place to live as well in Melbourne,” Rangi said. “The lads and the coaches are comfortable (to be around) and I couldn’t think of any better place to continue my rugby”.
“It’s a place where I can develop my own game and the competition is great.”
Rebels boss Baden Stephenson was pleased to wrap up Rangi for the next two years, with his re-signing giving the Rebels a better bunch of hookers than the back streets of Kings Cross.
“Anaru has shown great durability over the last two seasons playing 28 Super Rugby games. ‘Bopper’ throws his body into everything on the training paddock and under the lights on match day but also cares very deeply about the people at the Club.”
“Anaru’s quiet and humble nature masks a determined spirit which has quickly endeared him to the Rebels playing group, staff, commercial partners and fan base.”
Rangi was optimistic about the finals aspirations of the club, stating that they were full of confidence, despite having a nightmare final two weeks to the draw, starting with a trip of Christchurch to face the Crusaders.
“Obviously it’s a big test but what excites me and the rest of the team is destiny is in our hands this weekend,” Rangi said.
“It’s really exciting. I haven’t been part of a finals series just yet. I am just excited to get out there and crack on.”
McDermott feeling the Blues
Queensland halfback Tate McDermott is expected to be ruled out of the Reds final home game against the Blues.
McDermott is racing the clock to be fit after being forced from the field with an ankle injury in Saturday’s loss to the Jaguares, limping off during the early stages of the second half.
The injury sidelined McDermott from Monday’s training session, and the shortened turnaround is likely to hand Samoan born Scott Malolua with the starting role.
Malolua has featured off the Reds bench for the past two matches, selected in front of regular number two halfback Moses Sorovi, who has been regulated to playing for his club side, Wests.
Despite the close loss to the Jaguares, coach Brad Thorn was still looking at the positives for his young side, praising their commitment and their ability to keep in the fight during games.
“We’re competing away, competing away and…you can’t knock the Queensland boys’ fight and their (will to) hang in there, it’s just executing some stuff,” Thorn said after the loss to the Jaguares,” Thorn said.
“There were some opportunities at the end there and these lads don’t give up – nor should they, they’re wearing the maroon jersey and representing Queensland, so that should be a given – and I’ve been pleased with the guys’ fronting, there’s just little moments in the game that to win at this level, there’s still some progress to be made.”
Whilst heaping praise on his team, Thorn admitted that the heartache of failing to close out the last couple of matches was starting to hurt.
“It’s tough as a coach because that’s four games in a row now where they’ve fronted and really competed hard but you’ve got to go in the sheds and you didn’t quite get there,” he said.
“But you’ve got to earn that right, it’s not just given to you. You’ve got to win those moments that have big impacts on the game and they’re not far away in my opinion but there’s a bit to go.”
The Reds are expected to welcome back captain Izaac Rodda who is set to return from being rested at the expense of the Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who will serve his final allotted game of rest.
Brumbies gold tinted vision
The Brumbies are relishing the opportunity to put their case forward for the World Cup, as they get ready to take on the Waratahs at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
The clash between the two sides will be crucial not only for the finals hopes of both sides but it will also allow for hopeful Wallabies to face off head to head in front of Michael Cheika and the selectors.
The majority of the attention will be focused on the battle between flyhalf Bernard Foley and Christian Lealiifano for the main playmaking position (after Foley defeated Quade via points last week), along with the contest between Kurtley Beale and Tom Banks for the vacant fullback position.
The rise of Lealiifano into Wallabies contention has been a major source of inspiration for the Brumbies according to hooker Connal McInerney, who was pumped up about how he has returned from his battle with leukaemia.
“We were all waiting for it, him to get called up to that camp so very special for him,” he said.”I’m sure he’s just focused on doing his job for the Brumbies and whatever comes from that, we’ll all be very happy for him.”
McInerney was confident that Lealiifano would be unfazed by the heightened media attention surrounding the flyhalf “battle”, stating that his focus would be solely on the team.
“I don’t think he’ll be thinking about Foley,” he said. “I think he’ll just want to lead the boys around the park well and get the job done and whatever comes from that, if he gets one up on him, so be it, that’ll be good.”
McInerney was also full of praise for his fullback Banks, who has been one of the standouts of the Super Rugby, which has bolted himself right into Wallaby contention.
“I think Kurtley knows that Banksy’s hot down his neck so that’ll be exciting to see, very exciting to watch,” he said.
A win for the Brumbies would all but secure the Australian Conference for the Brumbies, whilst a win for the men from NSW will be vital for maintaining their slim finals hopes.
Waratahs resisting rest
The Waratahs will continue to play with fire, refusing to rest their players as they get set to face the Brumbies in their penultimate match.
The side is still required to rest a number of Waratahs stars for a match under the Wallabies rest management policy, which includes Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle emphatically stated on Tuesday that the Waratahs would not be afforded any special compensations in regards to resting players during a press conference to announce the relocation of the Sydney Sevens to Bankwest Stadium.
“These things are never easy and straight forward. We’ve got Super Rugby teams that are trying to win Super Rugby and you’ve got the Wallabies who are trying to win the World Cup,” she said.
“We recognise that it is challenging, but we all sat down – Michael Cheika and the Super Rugby coaches and their high-performance teams – well before the beginning of the year and agreed on something that we all believed was workable. We would expect that that will be delivered off the back of the fact that we had an agreement from before Super Rugby’s start.”
Waratahs attack coach Chris Whittaker reaffirmed the belief that the side would continue to play their best squad until they are out of finals contention, stating “We haven’t spoken about selection yet but I dare say that’s going to be the case”
Whittaker was confident that the side could exact revenge for their round 5 loss to the Brumbies, stating that the side’s handling and execution have been refined since the first encounter.
“Last time down there we just turned too much ball over,” Whitaker said. “They attacked our breakdown pretty hard, had probably two or three turnovers there, and then just poor execution dropped balls. Our game’s hopefully come a long way since then.”