The Melbourne Rebels host league-leaders, the Sharks, this Friday night at AAMI Park, and coming off the bye following a win the week before against the Force, the Rebels are ready to claim another big scalp. So what have we made from the Sharks this season?
The Sharks have been on top of the Super Rugby table for the majority of this season, currently with a 7 wins and 2 losses record, and are one point ahead of the Brumbies in second courtesy of an extra bonus point.
The two losses the Sharks have suffered both came at the hands of two rather lowly sides in the competition -- a four-point loss to the Bulls in round 6, and a 16-point loss last week to the Highlanders.
Aside from that the Sharks have been one of the best teams this year, and the only top-performing South African team. With big wins against a variety of teams the Bulls in round 1, the Hurricanes, the Lions, the Reds, the flying Waratahs and the Cheetahs, the Sharks will be hoping to claim another expected victory against the Rebels.
There is still speculation over whether the Sharks are a good traveling team or not, with many fans predicting points to be dropped in their Australian and New Zealand tours.
The Sharks, despite being atop the table, have only scored 17 tries this season -- two more than the Rebels, and 5th last overall. This then goes to highlight their exceptional defensive efforts, conceding only 155 point this year -- the fewest overall.
As for the other statistics, they are surprisingly middle-of-the-road in other key areas. In carries, metres, ruck and lineout success, and clean breaks they are neither at the very top nor at the bottom.
Who to watch:
Lwazi Mvovo is one of the most dangerous and powerful men in rugby when he gets hold of the ball. Able to play down the wing or at fullback -- like we have seen this season -- he boasts 10 clean breaks to his name for the year, 22 defenders beaten for 618 metres.
Stephan Lewies will be one to watch in the lineout, as he has 35 lineout takes to his name and will be a handful for Scott Higginbotham and Luke Jones to match in the air.
Around him, the Sharks forwards are a formiddable team. Tendai "Beat" Mtawarira, the du Plessis boys, Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel form one of the biggest packs in the competition, and it will take a big performance from the Rebels to get past this group of men at the scrum.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Will the Sharks prove too strog for the Rebels? Or are they still yet to prove themselves this season having not traveled yet?
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