Melbourne Rebels

Preview Sharks v Rebels

Preview Sharks v Rebels

The Sharks, fresh off a bye, are playing host to the Melbourne Rebels, who last week saluted the judge for the first time this season.

This match in the wee hours of Sunday morning will be watched live by the diehards, and I suggest Foxtel iQ may be getting a workout.

The Form

So, how’s the recent playing form of both teams?

Sharks

The bye came at a good time for the Sharks who survived a physical battle at King’s Park against the Jaguares with an 18-13 victory in round 7. The Sharks are currently sitting second in Africa 2 conference with five wins and two losses. The Sharks fans have been exposed to a number of close matches (win or lose) during the season with 6 of the Sharks matches having a margin of 8 or less. The only exception to this close margin was the round 3 home win over the Waratahs 37 to 14. Funnily enough, the Sharks have won all four matches versus the Rebels with three of those margins being less than 7 points. The outlier is massive though with a 57 point victory in 2013.

Rebels

The Rebels produced a gritty 19-17 win against the Brumbies last weekend. Apart from this win, 65 minutes v the Chiefs and a half v the Waratahs the rest of the season has been close to a disaster.  A 38 point loss to the Blues, a 65 point loss to the Hurricanes and a 39 point loss to the Highlanders, a large injury list and the fact that the Rebels (along with the Force) are one of two Australian teams still on the chopping block.

Team News

Sharks

The Sharks have made one change to the pack with dynamic young flanker Jean-Luc du Preez missing the match due to an ankle injury. Du Preez is leading the competition for tackles made (84) and is equal fourth for defenders beaten (25). He is replaced in the starting line up by Philip van der Walt with Jacques Vermeulen providing loose forward cover on the bench. Curwin Bosch returns to flyhalf while Rhyno Smith moves from the bench to fullback. Bernhard Janse van Rensburg has moved onto the bench replacing Innocent Radebe who drops out of the matchday 23.

Rebels

There have been a number of changes from last week’s winning line up all in the forwards. Dom Day was injured, Colby Fainga’a has remained home for the birth of his child, and Lopeti Timani has been suspended for four weeks for kneeing Rory Arnold. Timani was lucky to only receive a yellow card at the time for what can only be described as an undisciplined act, particularly from a player with over 50 Super Rugby caps and 6 Wallabies caps to his name and considering Colby Fainga’a had just received a yellow card.

Lopeti Timani – took some serious angry pills last week, gets a four week holiday.

The unavailability of these players does provide opportunities for other players. Northern Suburbs’ Will Miller has been named in the starting XV to make his Super Rugby debut. There are also two potential debutants on the bench with Miller’s Northern Suburbs teammate Hugh Sinclair and Rebels Under 20s lock Esei Haangana.

The Rebels also have a rather inexperienced starting front row of Fereti Sa’aga, Siliva Siliva and Tyrel Lomax. The experienced James Hanson and Laurie Weeks have both been named on the bench.

Players to Watch

Who should you keep an eye on this week?

Jacobus (Kobus) van Wyk

The Sharks winger has proved difficult to stop so far this season scoring five tries to be equal 7th in the competition. van Wyk has also made 14 clean breaks, which is equal second in the competition. So the Rebels defence will not want to provide van Wyk with any space.

Ruan Botha

Watch for Botha come lineout time; he has won 37 lineouts this season which is the most in the competition. By contrast, the Rebels player with the most lineout wins is Steve Cummins with just 21.

Amanaki Mafi

Mafi has been one of the shining lights for the Rebels this season. He has been a consistent presence throughout the season, and you could argue that he is leading the Rebels player of the year. Mafi has always been willing to put his hand up in both attack and defence with some of his damaging runs with the ball a particular highlight.

Amanaki Mafi, Rebels v Panasonic Wild Knights

Amanaki Mafi – this man is like a Gazelle in full flight

Reece Hodge

One of the Rebels attacking weapons, in 18 matches since he made his debut for the Rebels he has scored 12 tries (only two players Higginbotham 15 and Vuna 13 have scored more tries for the Rebels). He also is the Rebels leading try scorer this season with 3 and has scored 53 out of the Rebels 94 points. He is one of only 6 Rebels players to score this season. Hodge’s long distance goalkicking will also be a feature, and the Sharks will have to be careful of their discipline near the halfway line.

What to expect

The Sharks forward pack should be the more dominant at the set piece. The Sharks have an 88% lineout success and 98% scrum success compared to the Rebels 79% in both categories. With the more inexperienced pack for the Rebels, this should be even more so in this match. Although the Rebels scrum did win a crucial penalty late in the game last week v the Brumbies.

The Sharks should also jump out of the blocks the better. They have only conceded two tries in the first quarter of games which is the equal least, while the Rebels have only scored three tries in the first quarter of games which is also the equal least.

Prediction

The Republic is akin to the Melbourne Rebels’ equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. Rebels fans are hoping for the Rebels to break their duck in South Africa I would look at next week’s clash versus the Kings, who will be returning home after a three week trip to Australia, as the more likely opportunity. With the Sharks fresh off a bye, needing a win to keep in touch with the Lions at the top of the Africa 2 Conference and with the Rebels forward pack even more depleted this week than it has been all season, I would expect

Sharks to win by 20.

Sharks

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Franco Marais
3. Coenraad Oosthuizen
4. Etienne Oosthuizen
5. Stephan Lewies
6. Lubabalo Mtembu
7. Phillip Van Der Walt
8. Daniel du Preez
9. Jacobus Reinach
10. Curwin Bosch
11. Lwazi Mvovo
12. Andre Esterhuizen
13. Lukhanyo Am
14. Jacobus Van Wyk
15. Rhyno Smith

Substitutes
16 Chiliboy Ralepelle
17 Thomas du Toit
18. Lourens Adriaanse
19. Ruan Botha
20. Jacques Vermeulen
21. Michael Claassens
22. Benhard Janse van Rensburg
23. Jeremy Ward

Rebels

1. Fereti Sa’aga
2. Siliva Siliva
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. Culum Retallick
5. Steven Cummins
6. Jake Schatz
7. Will Miller
8. Amanaki Mafi
9. Nic Stirzaker
10. Jack Debreczeni
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Mitch Inman
13. Tom English
14. Sefanaia Naivalu
15. Reece Hodge

Substitutes
16. James Hanson
17. Laurie Weeks
18. Tom Moloney
19. Esei Ha’angana
20. Hugh Sinclair
21. Mick Snowden
22. Jackson Garden-Bachop
23. Ben Volavola


Match Details

Date: Date Saturday 22 April 2017 (Sunday 23 April 2017 in Australia and NZ)


Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park


Kick-off: 19:30 SAST 3:30 am AEST (Sunday) 1:30 am NZST (Sunday)


Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen


Assistant Referees:
Egon Seconds & Stuart Berry

TMO: Marius Jonker

 

Data used courtesy of Opta Sports

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