Both have produced some spirited performances – albeit the Rebels doing so more in their first match, against the Cheetahs, than the last couple of weeks. The Waratahs dropped their first match when they were upstaged by the Brumbies last week and know they are up against another team with the potential to derail their campaign. And the Rebels are in a confident mood, with assistant coach Matt Cockbain making reference to their pre-season win over the Tahs when asked for reasons why the visitors can win. “It was good to get the win against them in Albury during pre-season,” Cockbain said in his coaches blog on the Rebels’ website.
“We had a number of players who hadn’t suited up against the Waratahs before, and they’ll draw confidence from that, but it’s a completely different level and scenario now that we are facing off for competition points.” The Rebels mentor pointed out that the Waratahs rested a few players in Albury. Among those who watched from the stands in the pre-season outing were Israel Folau and Michael Hooper. “With a full compliment now available to them, it will certainly be a stern test,” Cockbain said.
“They have seventeen Wallabies in their squad, which is a testament to their quality, depth and ability to play good rugby. “We will need to be at our best to beat them this week.” He added that the Rebels have remained upbeat, despite the two recent defeats. “We speak about consistency a lot,” he said, adding: “About being able to turn up every day at work and perform your role for the team.” Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phipps takes on his old franchise for the first time in Super Rugby, since joining the Waratahs at the start of this season.
“I’ve got a lot of friends down there [in Melbourne], but it won’t be any different to playing any other Australian franchise,” he said. The Rebels have a strong recent record against the Waratahs, having won back the Weary Dunlop Shield last season in a 24-22 thriller in Melbourne. New coach Tony McGahan has overhauled the squad to produce the beginnings of an abrasive and successful new style characterised by tough back-rowers Scott Higginbotham and Sean McMahon and powerful backs such as Tamati Ellison and Tom English.
“Their backs are running a lot more direct lines, trying to run blind and keep the breakdown on the ball and they’re always attacking, playing quick taps and quick line-outs,” Phipps told the Sydney Morning Herald. “They had a good game [first up against the Cheetahs], then lost to the Force pretty convincingly, then last week [against the Crusaders] they were in it until about the 60th or 70th minute, so they’ll be looking forward to travelling to Sydney.
“They’ll be confident and stinging to have a crack at us.”
2013: Rebels won 24-22, Melbourne
2013: Waratahs won 31-26, Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 30-21, Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 35-19, Melbourne
2011: Waratahs won 28-9, Sydney
2011: Waratahs won 43-0, Melbourne
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements – from: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Pat McCutcheon, 25 Jonno Lance.
Rebels: 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Cruze Ah-Nau, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Male Sa’u, 23 Tom Kingston.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)