This Saturday afternoon the Melbourne Rebels take on the reigning Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, at the Waikato Stadium in a big game for the Melbourne team wanting a result.
Coming off last weeks game against the Highlanders in a match they thought they should've won, the improving Rebels outfit will hope to grab a result against a slightly misfiring Chiefs team following a loss and two draws from their last three games.
The Rebels would have worked on their defensive structures in training during the week given that a fair amount of points conceded last round came from giving away penalties, turnovers whilst deep in defence, and a general inability to move forward and out of their own defensive 22.
What the Rebels have done well in the last two weeks has been applying pressure and swinging the momentum in their favour when they have the ball. The forays forward have been looking more promising, and possession is becoming gradually cleaner, seeing fewer fumbles than the first few rounds. This also rings true with the kicking; last weeks performance saw fewer turnovers from the boot than prior weeks.
The inclusion of Nic Stirzaker into scrumhalf has injected the team with more energy and pace, and he has inspired the teams hard-nosed approach when running at the defenders.
Captain Scott Higginbotham played a great game for the Rebels last week and will hope to replicate his good form again. As for the rest of the Rebels squad, all players have put in good performances this year, but the level of skill and intensity needs an overall increase in order to match it with the bigger sides.
As mentioned, defence would've been a focal point for Tony McGahan in training, especially considering their opponents in the Chiefs are one of the most potent teams when it comes to metreage. For just about all of their games this season they have had far more possession than their opponents, and have had instances of metreage differences of 400 and over. They're also the second-highest team in the competition for total tries scored, with 21.
The Chiefs will be without star flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who will be on the sidelines for 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb, but the Rebels will still have to contend with the backline names of Nanai-Williams, the ever improving Gareth Anscombe (who has shifted to flyhalf in replacement of Cruden), Mils Muliaina and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (who has been moved to the bench).
HAVE YOUR SAY: Can the Rebels upset the winner of the last two Super Rugby premierships? Or will the Chiefs prove too strong on their home patch in Waikato?
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