The Melbourne Rebels will be hunting for their first ever win in South Africa when they conclude their tour of the Republic this weekend against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
In their only previous encounter, the Kings were victorious in Melbourne. They won 30-27, thanks to an 83rd minute drop goal from Dimitri Catrakilis.
In 2013 the Rebels had only been in Super Rugby for two seasons and the Kings were the new kids on the block. Four years later, both teams face an uncertain future with the likelihood that at least one of them will not have a team in 2018. The Kings have responded to their impending doom by having fun. They are playing rugby like a team that knows they only have to worry about what is in front of them. In contrast, the Rebels, in the words of Tony McGahan, “we’ll continue to fight and scrap like we did last week“.
In their last three matches, all played in Australia, the Kings have scored a combined total of 101 points, including fifteen tries. Two of their games were high scoring losses against the Force and the Reds. Last weekend, in what was possibly the club’s greatest win, they enjoyed victory over Australia’s most highly paid team, the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Kings game is based around winning turnover ball and their adventurous flyhalf, Lionel Cronje getting the ball into space for his hard running outside backs. As a team, they lead the competition in turnovers won per game. As a result, twelve of the Kings 27 tries this season have come from first phase ball and ten more have come from second or third phase.
The other side of the coin is the Kings defence, or lack thereof. They have conceded 37 tries and give up the ball to their opponents almost 18 times per game.
The Kings celebrate after beating the ‘Tahs
Since their Round Seven thumping at the hands of the Highlanders, the Rebels have beaten the Brumbies at home and drawn against the Sharks in Durban in a dour, tryless game.
Six competition points from two tough games is a better return than many would have expected. The Rebels defence in these past two games has been solid and the pressure they have applied to opposition ball has been outstanding. Unfortunately, the Rebels’ attack has been missing in action all season with a total of only nine tries scored to date.
Last week the rebels had up to eighteen players unavailable for selection. This week sees the return of Colby Fainga’a, Toby Smith, Dominic Day and Marika Koroibete. In something of a surprise selection, Ben Volavola will make his first start at flyhalf for the Rebels. They will go into the game with a 6/2 bench with Jack Debreczeni, Tom Moloney, Esei Hanga’ana and Sione Tuipulotu all omitted.
The Rebels ground out a draw last start
Key Match Ups
So, who should we keep an eye on this week?
Michael Willemse vs Siliva Siliva
The Kings Hooker, Michael Willemse, was one of the stars of the show in their win last week and has been a consistent performer at the set piece. Melbourne lad, Siliva has been named for his second consecutive start and is perhaps starting to show the ability that he has long promised.
Unfortunately for the Kings, they are still missing their fullback and second playmaker in Malcolm Jaer. His replacement, Masixole Banda and wingers Wandile Mjekevu and Makazole Mapimpi may have been somewhat unknown at the start of the year but are making names for themselves with their scoring ability and post-try celebrations. Makazole Mapimpi has scored six tries from his seven games; that’s more than the Rebels back three combined.
On paper at least, Marika Koroibete, Sefa Naivalu and Reece Hodge should be more than a match for their counterparts. All of them have had their moments but none have been able to find open space regularly with the Rebels’ current game plan.
Makazole Mapimpi celebrates another try
Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure it will be worth staying up all night to watch live. Particularly after the grind of the Sharks and Rebels last week. Nevertheless, there is a decent chance of a win for the Melbourne team and you are likely to see some exciting passages of attacking rugby. I will probably IQ this one and watch it first thing Sunday morning.
Looking at the team’s relative statistics and recent form you would have to say The Kings at home. They lead the Rebels by a considerable margin in just about every attacking metric. Defensively and at set piece they are statistically very similar. However, the Kings are returning from a tough three week tour and the Rebels have added a few quality players to the side.
To win this game, the Rebels will need to score tries. They will not beat the Kings three points at a time.
The heart says, Rebels to win by three points.
1. Justin Forwood
2. Martin Bezuidenhout
3. Ross Geldenhuys
4. Irne Herbst
5. Wilhelm van der Sluys
6. Chris Cloete
7. Tyler Paul
8. Andisa Ntsila
9. Louis Schreuder
10. Lionel Cronje (c)
11. Makazole Mapimpi
12. Luzuko Vulindlu
13. Berton Klaasen
14. Wandile Mjekevu
15. Masixole Banda
16. Michael Willemse
17. Schalk van der Merwe
18. Dayan van der Westhuizen
19. Mzwanele Zito
20. Stefaan Willemse
21. Johan Steyn
22. Nicolaas Hanekom
23. Pieter-Steyn de Wet
1. Fereti Sa’aga
2. Siliva Siliva
3. Tyrel Lomax
4. Culum Retallick
5. Steven Cummins
6. Jake Schatz
7. Colby Fainga’a
8. Amanaki Mafi
9. Nic Stirzaker
10. Ben Volavola
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Mitch Inman
13. Tom English
14. Sefanaia Naivalu
15. Reece Hodge
16. James Hanson
17. Toby Smith
18. Laurie Weeks
19. Dominic Day
20. Will Miller
21. Hugh Sinclair
22. Mick Snowden
23. Jackson Garden-Bachop
Time: 7:30pm April 29th (03:30am Sunday, April 30th AEST)
Venue: Nelson Mandela Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistants: Egon Seconds, Rodney Boneparte
TMO: Christie du Preez
Forecast: Sunny, 27°
Statistics courtesy of OPTA Sports
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