Preview: Chiefs v Rebels

Date published: April 11 2014

The Chiefs are on a streak of three games without a win after slow starts cost them of late, which gives the Rebels hope of victory.

The Chiefs are on a poor run of three games without a win after slow starts cost them dear in recent games, which will give the Rebels hope on Saturday.

Now back at home after a defeat to the Force was backed up by two draws in South Africa, Dave Rennie's men need an 80 minute performance.

Sluggish starts have been the Chiefs' problem, with one game possibly forgivable but back-to-back slumps have led to boss Rennie sounding an alarm, with changes both in personnel and positionally demonstrating that the champions' coach has been far from pleased with his players.

This week he's had to make an enforced change due to the injury suffered by Aaron Cruden so up steps Gareth Anscombe as the fly-half. Augustine Pulu is retained ahead of All Black scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow while Bundee Aki makes his 2014 debut as Tom Marshall moves to fifteen.

On paper it is of course a strong line-up from a franchise that possesses unrivalled depth – but of late there has been more than a suspicion that they're not as invincible as thought. The Cheetahs found that a direct running game led by Sarel Pretorius rocked them to their core.

What's missing is hard to pinpoint but on the flip side one must applaud their comebacks in Pretoria and Bloemfontein as only they could have done that, with Liam Messam and Tim Nanai-Williams prominent. This week the former is rested in a pre-planned move ahead of tackling the Crusaders, one we feel should've been reconsidered following Cruden's injury but they've stuck with it and named Kane Thompson, Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer.

The Rebels meanwhile continue to show flashes of good mixed with the bad as they prop up the Australian conference on eleven points from six Super Rugby games this season.

Patches of physical with a blend of attacking the wide channels strongly have seen the likes of Luke Jones, Scott Higginbotham and Jason Woodward demonstrate their importance to the team, but there are just those lapses in their gameplan that cost them time and again.

Last year's meeting saw a high-scoring affair that the Chiefs won 39-33, with Anscombe scoring a hat-trick from full-back. Unfortunately for the Rebels we can see something similar result wise as the Chiefs should find their mojo. Rennie will hope it's from minute one.

Prediction: The hosts will enjoy the comforts of Hamilton. Chiefs to win by 15!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Mils Muliaina, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick (c), 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Ross Filipo, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordan Payne.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Tom Kingston, 23 Angus Roberts.

Date: Saturday, April 12
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Ben O'Keefe (New Zealand)