Melbourne Rebels



Five rounds done. Both teams out of the eight. Both teams have injuries galore. Both teams on a bye next week so whoever misses out this week gets no points for a fortnight and will be playing catch-up from round eight onwards. This game is seriously important for finals hopes because the loser will start counting how many more losses they can afford to have and still make the eight.

Folau v Rebels 4



The Waratahs have two wins from four and two losses against top four teams. In both the lost matches they had chances to win but couldn’t pull it off. Those stats would have them favourites BUT their form in key aspects of the game has been ugly to say the least. They have the worst scrum in the whole competition and their lineout must be close to the worst. The physicality in their tackles used to be legendary – used to be! Scrums, lineouts, physicality are the three missing components from the Waratah game.


The Rebels have had three wins from five. The two losses were to the Bulls at altitude and the Highlanders at home. Each of those games were pretty comprehensive losses while their wins have all been against teams in the cellar. So on form you’d expect them to be not as good as the best but better than the worst. Then you look down through their team list and despite the injuries they have a pretty strong line-up. So why have they looked so average, particularly last week?



There is now huge pressure on Daryl Gibson and we will see in the next month whether he was ready to step into Cheik’s shoes. The first thing he has to do is to re-instill the requirement for physicality into his forwards, particularly the tight five. Last week he went for aerobic performance with Ta’avao, Ryan, Latu, Dennis and Mumm but they lacked the sting that the tight five used to have and the Reds were on top in the first half everywhere but the scoreboard. This week he’s gone aerobic again but has three bruisers, Skelton, Lousi and Palu on the bench.

Do the Waratahs have a forwards and set-piece coach? Rumour has it one of the Blades brothers has something to do with it, but the Waratahs website must be ashamed to admit it as he’s not listed. Watching the set piece you’d doubt any formal training was going on. Fat Cat is back starting this week, that’s a plus, but Roach has just started kindy and Hilterbrand and Robertson are still in nappies.

Tony McGahan must have known what was coming last week. The week before, the Highlanders beat the Waratahs with a simple gameplan. Don’t go for linebreaks until what’s in front of you is in disarray. Instead kick the ball short and contest. Turn that contest and subsequent rucks into mayhem. If there was a clear plan to negate the Highlanders mode of play I didn’t see it. Instead the Highlanders were allowed to get on top and that’s where they stayed. Not a great coaching performance.


Last week the Waratahs scrum got better as the Reds forwards got tired. But before they did it was very ugly. Smith, Hanson and Weeks are very strong and Waratah fans will be hoping Ben Robinson will stabilise the front row. However Ta’avo is still starting, James Hilterbrand will debut off the bench at hooker and Tom Robertson is the back-up tight head. The Waratah mismatch in heights across the front row will be worse this week and third choice hooker Roach will be expected to play a lot of minutes.


Waratahs can’t be worse than last week but Thompson and Jones are master poachers. You’d expect the Rebels to be dominant whoever is throwing in.

Photo: Keith McInnes

Photo: Keith McInnes


One special battle will be the highlight of the night. McMahon vs Hooper will be titanic and may well decide the match.


Here the Waratahs have a huge advantage. Phipps has been in sublime form  and Lucas would start at any Aussie team except the Brumbies. For the Rebels, Meehan has been too slow to get the ball away. With Stirzacker back the Rebels backline will get better service but still, advantage Waratahs.


No Beale this week and he has carried the attack in the early rounds. With Horne also out, Foley will have a fairly innocuous pairing outside him and I expect him to play for more field position this week, with plenty of kick chase from Robinson and Guildford.

You would expect Inman to run at Horwitz all day. Horwitz missed 13 tackles in the first three rounds and though he didn’t miss any in forty minutes last week he was only up against Ant Fainga’a. Debreczeni looked clueless last week, but should have learnt from it. With Hodge back on deck the two backlines look relatively evenly matched.



Can the Rebels get over their inferiority complex and put away one of the competition heavies? When you look at the match-ups across the park and the form going into the game the Rebels should be warm favourites. That they are not is down to home ground advantage and that niggling feeling that the Rebels aren’t really ready to step up. But I am going to forecast the Rebels to win by 5.



1. Benn Robinson
2. Hugh Roach
3. Angus Ta’avo
4. Dean Mumm
5. Dave Dennis
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper
8. Jed Holloway
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Zac Guildford
12. David Horwitz
13. Matt Carraro
14. Reece Robinson
15. Israel Folau

16. James Hilterbrand
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Tom Robertson
19. Will Skelton
20. Sam Lousi
21. Wycliff Palu
22. Matt Lucas
23. Andrew Kellaway


1. Toby Smith
2. James Hanson
3. Laurie Weeks
4. Luke Jones
5. Lopeti Timani
6. Jordy Reid
7. Sean McMahon
8. Adam Thomson
9. Nic Stirzaker
10. Jack Debreczeni
11. Cam Crawford
12. Mitch Inman
13. Tamati Ellison
14. Dom Shipperley
15. Reece Hodge

16. Pat Leafa
17. Cruze Ah Nau
18. Jamie Hagan
19. Sam Jeffries
20. Scott Fuglistaller
21. Ben Meehan
22. Dan Hawkins
23. Sefa Naivalu


Match : Waratahs vs Rebels
Date : Sunday 3 April 2016
Venue : Sydney Football Stadium
Kick Off local: 16:05
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Ref 1: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 2: Michael Hogan
TMO George Ayoub

Melbourne Rebels

Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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