Another big Australian derby takes place this Friday night in Super Rugby when the Melbourne Rebels will host the ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park.
It's an important clash for both sides almost a third of the way into the season, with the Rebels wanting to get back into winning ways after going on a four game losing streak since their impressive round 2 victory, while for the Brumbies, they want to assert their dominance on the competition by recording another win to keep themselves in the top two and within touching distance of the Sharks on top of the ladder.
Tony McGahan has rung in the changes for the Rebels, with a total of six players coming into this weekends side; most notably the inclusion of 23 year-old Nic Stirzaker into the scrumhalf position in place of Luke Burgess.
Stirzaker -- along with possessing a fiery red head of hair -- has incredible pace about him, with his times in the 20 metre and 40 metre sprint trials being faster than any player to ever come through the AFL Draft Camp/Combine. Watch out if he manages a clean break through a hole in the defence.
Still, it is intriguing to see McGahan make such a selection, especially in a match like this against such a formidable opponent.
Off the ball, the Rebels last week showed great desperation in defending on their own line and were once again admirable in the scrum, proving that their forward pack has been good so far this year. But it is the defending around the rest of the ground that cost them at Allianz Stadium, with the Waratahs star players -- such as Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau,Peter Betham and Alofa Alofa -- exposing holes in the Rebels line.
On the ball, the Rebels once again had a fair share of the possession, but also once again they turned it over too many times and didn't make their possession percentage count. Fumbles and bad kicking decisions stuck out like a sore thumb and it is something Tony McGahan needs to address urgently within his team.
The Brumbies have been quite impressive this year, with an exact opposite win-loss record to the Rebels. After a small hiccup in round 2 against Queensland, they have gone on tally up four wins in a row to sit near the top of the ladder.
While their scoring power is strong, with players of the ilk of Mogg, Kuridrani, Coleman, Tomane and Leali'ifano, as well as Toomua and White in the halves all capable of scoring, they have also conceded more heavily than what they would've liked this season, averaging only a 9-point winning margin this season and their opponents scoring more than 20 points in three of their five games thus far.
Of the teams in the top four on the ladder, they (along with the Chiefs) have a rather small points difference compared to the Sharks and the Waratahs (the Brumbies are +26 and the Chiefs +23, while the Sharks are +58 and the Waratahs +68).
Of the six games the teams have played against each other in their history, the Brumbies have won five in total and the Rebels just one.
Another big performance and another result is going to be expected from Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham this evening, but will the Rebels be able to stop them in their tracks with a surprise victory at home?
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