Preview: Rebels v Brumbies

Date published: February 27 2015

The Rebels will be highly motivated when they host the Brumbies in this Australian Super Rugby derby in Melbourne on Saturday.

In eight previous matches between these sides the Brumbies have been victorious on six occassions with the Rebels only winning twice with the Melbourne-based side's last win coming at exactly the same stage of last year's.

The Rebels suffered a 38-28 loss to the Waratahs at home last weekend but despite that 10-point losing margin they held their own for most of that match and only faded away during the latter stages of that match.

The men from Melbourne's forward play was one of their strengths in recent weeks, especially against the Waratahs where players like Scott Higginbotham, Lopeti Timani and Pat Leafa impressed with their physicality.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan wants his pack to continue where they left off in that clash.

“I thought that our forward pack performed very well and showed great physicality against the Waratahs,” he said. “The performance and togetherness of the forward pack in our opening two games shows that they deserve to hold their spots in the squad moving into the game against the Brumbies.”

The Brumbies, however, are not Australia's leading Super Rugby franchise for nothing. The two-time champions have shown during the early stages of this year's tournament that they will once again be competive this year.

After their 47-3 thrashing over the Reds in Round One they did well against the Chiefs in New Plymouth before an Aaron Cruden penalty in injury robbed them of a deserved victory.

They have plenty of experience throughout their side, especially amongst their backs, with players like Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua and Nic White all game-breakers.

The Brumbies currently top the Australian Conference but are only a point ahead of the Rebels, so a win for the hosts could move them to the top of that table.

Last time out: The previous match between these sides was a one-sided affair with the Brumbies securing a deserved 37-10 triumph in Canberra. Matt Toomua led the way with a brace of tries and Pat McCabe, Scott Sio, Sam Carter and Leon Power also crossed the whitewash for the victors. The Rebels' only try was scored by their captain Scott Higginbotham.

Players to watch: Rebels second-row Lopeti Timani has been one of the standout performers during the opening rounds of the tournament and will look to continue where he left off against the Waratahs last weekend, where he scored his second try in two games after also crossing the whitewash against the Crusaders in the Rebels' first match. The 24-year-old is a big unit who always seems to gain ground with ball in hand but is also quite mobile and enjoys the physical nature of the game.

Although the Brumbies possess several attacking threats their supporters will be pleased with the form of Wallabies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani who have impressed in their two previous matches. Kuridrani's ability to break the first line of defence makes him dangerous on attack but his decision-making is also one of his strengths and he is sure to prove a handful to the Rebels defenders if he gets the ball in space.

Team news: The Rebels have made a solitary change to their starting line-up that lost to the Waratahs last weekend. Scrum-half Nic Stirzaker is back from suspension and takes over from Luke Burgess, who is amongst the replacements.

For the Brumbies, Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore makes his first start of the season – after a couple of appearances off the bench – and replaces Josh Mann-Rea. Moore will also take over the captaincy from Nic White.

Form: The Rebels hit the ground running when they beat the Crusaders 20-10 in their season opener in Christchurch but then suffered a 38-28 defeat to the Waratahs in a closely contested derby in Melbourne. The Brumbies were in a rampant mood, beating the Reds 47-3 in Canberra, in their first match of the campaign before suffering a narrow 19-17 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton in Round Two.

Predictions: While the Rebels have impressed in their two previous matches this season, the Brumbies have too much firepower and will be victorious. Brumbies to win by eight points!

Previous results:
2014: Brumbies won 37-10 in Canberra
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

The teams:

Melbourne Rebels: 5 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu. 

Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Jesse Mogg.

Date: Saturday 28 February
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08.40 GMT)
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)