Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Melbourne Rebels v Cell C Sharks

Preview: Melbourne Rebels v Cell C Sharks

The Melbourne Rebels return to AAMI Park with their collective tails between their legs after a poor showing against the Waratahs in round 5. The Robert du Preez and Sons team are also licking their wounds after losing to the Brumbies in a dour, two-try apiece match in Canberra.


The two teams have played five times previously with the Sharks winning all but once. The last time they played was in Round Nine, 2017 at Kings Park. That thrilling game ended with both sides on nine points after a late penalty goal from Reece Hodge secured the draw – the Rebels best result in the Republic to date. In their two prior meetings at AAMI Park the Sharks have left town with narrow wins.


Embed from Getty Images

After bonus point wins in their first three matches the Melbourne Rebels were flying high atop the Australian Conference. The Rebels are still on top but the gap has closed and the points differential took a pounding in the Sydney heat. Last week’s loss means that the team is danger of being overtaken by the Reds, should they lose again this week.

Coach Dave Wessels blamed his own grumpiness for the Rebels poor showing: “One thing last week was I was a little bit grumpy and didn’t bring a great energy into the team and that rubbed off on the environment and also we put a bigger running load into the guys and we had a couple of extra scrum sessions. In retrospect we were going pretty good in that game, up 20-3 then we fell off a cliff and a lot of that responsibly is on me where we got the structure of the week wrong.”


Embed from Getty Images


The Sharks season to date has been a mixed bag with seven point losses to both the Lions and Brumbies, a big win at home against a depleted Sunwolves, and a draw at home with the Waratahs.

du Preez is looking for improved discipline and a better start this week: “We started badly and gave away too many penalties in the first few minutes against the Brumbies, and that meant we simply couldn’t get any momentum going.”

“It’s an absolute priority to start well against these guys, I have no doubt that if we do start well and we get on a roll, we will be difficult to stop,” he said. “I’m quietly confident that it will be a good evening.”


The Rebels have made numerous changes in response to last week’s loss. Geoff Parling returns from injury to start in the second row with Matt Philip going to the bench. A new look backrow sees Angus Cottrell and Colby Fainga’a replacing Lopeti Timani and Ross Haylett-Petty respectively.

In an interesting move, Billy Meakes will get his first start for the Rebels at inside centre with Reece Hodge moving to outside centre. Sefa Naivalu will start on the right wing while Jack Maddocks replaces the injured Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback.

The Sharks have made several changes of their own. Andre Esterhuizen is a huge loss for them and will be replaced in the midfield by Marius Louw. The Beast, Tendai Mtawarira returns to the front row after being a late withdrawal last week.

Flanker, Jacques Vermeulen switches to the openside to accommodate Jean-Luc du Preez. Wingers, Lwazi Mvovo and Sbu Nkosi both come into the starting side, replacing Makazole Mapimpi and Kobus van Wyk.

It will be interesting to see how the reshuffled Rebels backline, in combination with a slightly more mobile backrow, will impact upon their attacking structures. The Rebels lead the competition in trys scored from turnover ball. Getting the ball into open space against the big Sharks’ forward pack will be crucial to their success.

The Sharks rely heavily on their set piece plays with a strong scrum and lineout to power their offence. Two thirds of their recent trys have been scored by forwards. Expect them to try and hold on to possession, bashing the ball up though the midfield.

Embed from Getty Images

Key Match Ups

The Front Rows: The Sharks have an obvious advantage here. The entire Rebels’ forward pack will need to work hard to avoid being dominated at scrum time.
The Back Three: The Rebels have pace to burn among their outside backs and should have the edge over their counterparts. Curwin Bosch has been in good form at fullback but will do well to match it with young-gun, Jack Maddocks.
Embed from Getty Images


The Rebels will be hurting after their loss to the Stinkin’ Tahs and must win this game to regain lost momentum and maintain their lead atop the conference. The Sharks desperately need an away win to stay within cooee of the Lions.

I’m the eternal optimist so I’m tipping the home team to bounce back and win by eight points.


Melbourne Rebels

  1. Tetera Faulkner
  2. Anaru Rangi
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Geoff Parling
  5. Adam Coleman (c)
  6. Angus Cottrell
  7. Colby Fainga’a
  8. Amanaki Mafi
  9. Will Genia
  10. Jack Debreczeni
  11. Marika Koroibete
  12. Billy Meakes
  13. Reece Hodge
  14. Sefa Naivalu
  15. Jack Maddocks
  16. Mahe Vailanu
  17. Fereti Sa’aga
  18. Sam Talakai
  19. Matt Philip
  20. Ross Haylett-Petty
  21. Richard Hardwick
  22. Michael Ruru
  23. Tom English


  1. Tendai Mtawarira
  2. Akker van der Merwe
  3. Thomas du Toit
  4. Ruan Botha (Captain)
  5. Stephan Lewies
  6. Jacques Vermeulen
  7. Jean-Luc du Preez
  8. Tera Mtembu
  9. Louis Schreuder
  10. Robert du Preez
  11. Lwazi Mvovo
  12. Marius Louw
  13. Lukhanyo Am
  14. Sbu Nkosi
  15. Curwin Bosch
  16. Franco Marais
  17. Juan Schoeman
  18. John-Hubert Meyer
  19. Hyron Andrews
  20. Wian Vosloo
  21. Cameron Wright
  22. Kobus van Wyk
  23. Garth April

Match Details

Date: Friday 23 March
Kick-off: 19:45 local
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
AR1: Nic Berry
AR2: Damon Murphy
TMO: Ian Smith
Weather: Sunny during the day, maximum of 29
Melbourne Rebels

I like film cameras, LP records and one-handed backhands... and rugby. I hope rugby doesn't go the way of film cameras, LP records and one-handed backhands.

More in Melbourne Rebels

  • Thursdays Rugby News

    Covid corner in South East Queensland officially finishes on Friday at 4pm unless some of those pesky...

  • Thursdays Rugby News

      Week Four of my GAGR adventure My discussion points in no particular order. The way to...

  • Thursday Rugby News

    Week Three of my GAGR adventure “a bit of clickbait in here”  so feel free to bring...

  • Wednesday’s Rugby News

    Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at a possible Liam Gill return, Western Australia’s Asian ambitions, Rebels’ quarantine uncertainty...