Preview: Rebels v Chiefs

Date published: April 30 2015

The Chiefs will fancy their chances of extending their winning streak to five games on Saturday as they visit the Rebels in Melbourne.

After suffering a slight dip in form last year, this season the Chiefs have been delivering the same electrifying excitement that took them to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.

The tries are flowing and confidence is clearly high amongst Dave Rennie's men as they look to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes at the summit of the overall standings.

The Rebels meanwhile have struggled for consistency this season but look to be on an upward curve having outplayed the Reds and Brumbies before pushing the Waratahs very hard in their most recent outings.  

However, the men from Melbourne have never beaten the Chiefs. In fact, they have lost five of their last six games against New Zealand teams, scoring over 20 points in just one of those matches.

The Chiefs will head to Melbourne determined to right their defensive wrongs of last week's game against the Force, when they let in four tries. The Chiefs had conceded only eight tries in nine games this season before last week's game, but even though the Force has been reduced to 14 men, they still snuck in two tries in the last quarter.

"We've certainly done a fair bit of work on defence," Rennie told reporters during the week.

"We've had a pretty grumpy defence coach [Andrew Strawbridge] the last two or three days. The boys understand it needs to be a hell of a lot better this week and we've done a bit of work around that to solve a few problems.

"We know it's a simple fix. A lot of it's about attitude and a lot of it's about hard work."

While the Chiefs rank joint third in terms of tries scored this season (27), the Rebels (15) are stone last on the try-scoring charts.

The Rebels have scored the fewest second-half tries this season (6), less than half as many as the Chiefs (13), who are arguably the fittest team in the tournament.

The home side know they must get a result this weekend if they are to stay in the hunt for a play-off berth.

"We see this week as a week to get back on track and square up our ledger," said winger Dom Shipperley.

"We really need a launch pad to win a few games in a row and move up the table.

"The middle of the table is really congested right now, that's what we are setting out to do and kind of get that momentum going into next week."

The last time these team met: The Chiefs staved off a late fightback from the Rebels before claiming a hard-fought 22-16 victory in Hamilton last year. The teams scored one try apiece with Chiefs fly-half Gareth Anscombe contributing 17 points. The Chiefs raced into a 19-0 lead inside the opening quarter only to be pegged back as their intensity levels dropped.

Players to watch: Energetic flanker Jordy Reid makes his first start for the Rebels having earned a place in the run-on XV off the back of his impact from the bench in the last few rounds. Look out for Rebels scrum-half Nic Stirzaker, who has been a key playmaker for them this term. Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams has been in sublime form, tearing defences apart across the tournament. Also keep an eye on fly-half Andrew Horrell, who gets a rare start at 10.

Team news: Jordy Reid will make his first Super Rugby start for 2015, in one of two changes for the Rebels. He will start at openside flanker, while Luke Jones returns to the second row.

The Chiefs have made six changes: props Ben Tameifuna and Pauliasi Manu are back in place of Siate Tokolahi and Mitchell Graham while captain Liam Messam also returns with Johan Bardoul dropping down to the bench. Mike Fitzgerald replaces injured All Black lock Brodie Retallick. Andrew Horrell comes in for Marty McKenzie at fly-half while James Lowe replaces Bryce Heem on the wing. Tim Nanai-Williams shifts from the left to the right wing.

Form: The Rebels picked up a losing bonus point as they went down 18-16 away to the Waratahs last week having beaten the Reds and Brumbies in previous weeks.The Chiefs have won four in a row; their best run in a single campaign since racking up six straight victories in June 2013. They beat a 14-man Force outfit 35-27 last week but will be disappointed to have not bagged a bonus point. The Hamilton-based side have won three of their last four away games, whilst their last three losses away from home have all been by fewer than five points.

Prediction: The Rebels have shown some decent form of late, but you cannot argue with the Chiefs' record against their hosts this weekend. Chiefs by ten points.

Previous results:
2014: Chiefs won 22-16 in Hamilton
2013: Chiefs won 39-33 in Melbourne
2011: Chiefs 38-10 in Hamilton

The teams:

Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Tom English, 23 Bryce Hegarty.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Andrew Horrell, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Bryce Heem.

Date: Saturday, May 2
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT, 21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner, James Leckie
TMO: Ian Smith