Super Rugby preview: The Rebels

Date published: February 7 2013

With the new Super Rugby season looming large on the horizon we take a look at each of the 15 competitors. Next up, the Rebels!

With the new Super Rugby season looming large on the horizon we take a look at each of the 15 competitors. Next up, the Rebels!

Last Year: 2012 was an improvement for the Rebels. They rose off the foot of their conference table to finish fourth. They climbed over the Lions and the Force to finish 13th overall but they still struggled for consistency. When they hit their stride, combinations, confidence and cohesion shone through, which was demonstrated through their watershed win against the Crusaders. They also beat the Blues and the Western Force (twice). A combination of errors and nerves cost them dearly against the Reds, the Bulls and the Cheetahs. Then there were scoreboard blowouts like the 66-24 walloping against the Hurricanes and 37-6 against the Brumbies.

This year: Head coach Damien Hill oversees a solid coaching line-up with John Muggleton as senior assistant and defensive coach. Former Wallabies Matt Cockbain and Nathan Grey remain as assistant coaches. They've been aided by management who have recruited astutely; with youth policy that lowered the average age to 25. Their forwards should have plenty of endurance and energy, but a worrying lack of experience and leadership could find them wanting – particularly against the more scrum-savvy packs from New Zealand and South Africa. The draw hasn't been overly favourable for the Rebels. A challenging five day turn around between the New Zealand power houses; the Crusaders and the Chiefs. On their side is a home game against the debutant Kings, in the most “like-for-like” encounter to date.

Players to watch: Cadeyrn Neville had a break-out season in 2012. The lock-forward has a massive aerobic capacity, and a big turn of pace that sliced through the Force defence for his maiden try last season. Kurtley Beale should be primed for a season that many expected of him last year but saw him struggle with recurring hamstring niggle. The Rebels have yet to name their captain, but Gareth Delve is likely to succeed Stirling Mortlock. He's reliable, consistent and deputised for Mortlock when the latter was sidelined through injury.

Noteworthy signings: Scott Higginbotham (Reds), Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild), Jason Woodward (Wellington)

Noteworthy losses: Stirling Mortlock (retired), Danny Cipriani (Sale), Julian Huxley (Narbonne)

Prospects: On paper they are stronger and should easily cope with the challenges of the fixture. Their set piece has improved. As a result, the scoreboard blowouts should lessen, and a few near misses converted into wins. They've ambitiously been talking up their play-off chances but a 10th-placed finish will be a successful season for the Melbourne Rebels.

15 February: v Force – Away
22 February: Brumbies – Home
1 March: v Waratahs – Away
8 March: v Reds – Home
24 March: v Sharks – Away
31 March: v Cheetahs – Away
6 April: v Force – Away
13 April: v Kings – Home
28 April: v Crusaders – Away
3 May: v Chiefs – Home
11 May: v Blues – Away
17 May: v Stormers – Home
24 May: v Waratahs – Home
1 June: v Reds – Away
7 June: v Brumbies – Away
12 July: v Highlanders – Home

By Paul Roberton