Preview: Brumbies v Rebels

Date published: May 30 2014

Back on a home soil after a gruesome tour of South Africa, the Brumbies need to regroup and that starts against the Rebels on Saturday.

Back on a home soil after a gruesome tour of South Africa, the Brumbies need to regroup and that starts against the Rebels on Saturday.

After such a positive start to the season – winning four games straight after an opening loss – significant damage has been done in South Africa to their title credentials.

Two defeats came at the same time as the Waratahs notched up two bonus point wins over the Lions and Rebels, leapfrogging them to the top of the Australian Conference and leaving the Brumbies four points behind.

Therefore, they have work to do. The two changes made to the backline, one enforced, send a message of looking for great stability.

Jesse Mogg was one of the stars of last year's tournament but has looked lost in 2014, omitted from the Wallabies squad and set to return to club rugby in a bid to rediscover his confidence.

The Brumbies have a brilliant set of talented players from 9-15, starting with Nic White and including Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight. Robbie Coleman, a casualty from last week, is the joint second highest try-scorer in the competition with seven.

But they've felt a little lightweight, particularly against the Bulls last weekend. That's partly why the experience of Pat McCabe and Clyde Rathbone has been called upon to shore up a leaky defence – with the worst tackle success percentage in the competition at 84.7 – and instil some knowledge and confidence into a unit that has looked off-colour.

Getting more go-forward in attack should also help them close out tight fixtures, considering only the Lions and Bulls have beaten more defenders this year than the Brumbies' 170.

Their scrum has also been a nightmare, hence the inclusion of Ruan Smith at tighthead instead of Ben Alexander to try and boost a miserable 76 percent success rate at scrum time, the worst in Super Rugby.

Is that something the Rebels can capitalise on? Laurie Weeks and Toby Smith are certainly well-schooled enough in this area to cause some problems, with Weeks celebrating his 50th cap for the side in Canberra.

While the Force this season have consistently sprung surprises, the Rebels have done so in fits and bursts. Their performances against the likes of the Chiefs and Sharks have been stubborn, which makes the limp second-half collapse against the Waratahs disappointing given by the end they'd let in eight tries.

Rewind back to March however and the Rebels had the better of the Brumbies thanks to an inspired second-half fightback, with Mitch Inman grabbing the winner and Jason Woodward scoring 27 points.

Woodward is so crucial to how the Rebels perform each week but his pack will have to do some damage at the set-piece and breakdown to create enough scoring opportunities.

Making a wildcard spot or winning the Australian Conference is out of the question with the 'Tahs, Force and Brumbies all significantly clear, but, that hands Tony McGahan the chance to help develop a squad that only won five games last year compared to this year's four with four games remaining.

Fly-half is of huge importance in that respect, with Bryce Hegarty currently the man behind the wheel. It's worth remembering that the Rebels tried to sign both Toomua and Lealiifano before they signed new contracts to stay in Canberra.

Form: Wins have been few and far between for the Rebels in 2014, unable to pick up back to back victories all season and with four in total from their 12 games. Since their bye they have lost three of their last four matches, their win coming against the Reds. The Brumbies aren't faring too well either, losing three of their last four but before that they had won seven of their last eight.

Previous results:2014: Rebels won 32-24 in Melbourne
2013: Brumbies won 39-17 in Canberra
2013: Brumbies won 30-13 in Melbourne
2012: Brumbies won 27-19 in Melbourne
2012: Brumbies won 37-6 in Canberra

Prediction: The Brumbies have a point to prove and with McCabe and Rathbone in tow should do enough to get past the post first in this one. Possibly without a try bonus point. Brumbies by eight.

Brumbies: 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Fotu Auelua, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Leon Power, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Jesse Mogg

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Caderyn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Josh Holmes, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Tom Kingston

Date: Saturday, May 31
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kickoff: 19:40 (local, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: James Leckie (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)