Rebels flyhalf Jack Debreczeni can end his breakout Vodacom Super Rugby season on a high against the Force on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
They might not be heading for the play-offs, but there will still be something at stake for these two Australian teams in Melbourne. The Rebels, occupying 10th place on the overall log, are gunning for an unprecedented fifth straight victory at home, while the Force have a slim chance of rising above the Blues to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Based on current form and past results in this fixture, the Rebels should have enough firepower to put the Perth-based team away. But the Force have done the double over the champion Waratahs this season and narrowly lost 21-17 to the men from Melbourne in the corresponding fixture in March.
The 22-year-old Debreczeni has impressed in his first full Super Rugby campaign, despite returning a poor goal-kicking record (10 out of 18). He ranks third for the number of offloads, behind Waratahs duo Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale, but it's his vision to spot the space in behind the opposition defence and his pin-point accuracy to exploit said space with good tactical kicking that makes Debreczeni so vital to the Rebels' cause.
He has kicked out of hand 107 times this year, affording the Rebels numerous attacking platforms. But he is no slouch when taking the ball to the line either, as was evident last week when he glided through the Bulls defence to score a try.
If the man, who says he tries to emulate rugby league superstar Greg Inglis's attacking style, is on form on Friday, the brittle Force defence will have their work cut out to stop him and his halfback partner Nic Stirzaker.
The Force have made three personnel changes and one positional switch for this match. The injured Ben McCalman (No 8) and Adam Coleman (lock) have been replaced by Chris Alcock and Steve Mafi respectively, with Alcock starting on the side on the scrum and Angus Cottrell moving to the back. In a direct swap, tighthead prop Tetera Faulkner comes in for Guy Millar.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has named an unchanged lineup.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Rebels 7, Force 2
In Melbourne: Rebels 3, Force 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Rebels have won their last four home matches and have never won five on the bounce in Melbourne.
– The Rebels have won seven of the nine Super Rugby meetings between these two sides and have won their last three at home to the Force.
– No team has averaged longer in possession this season than the Force (17 minutes, five seconds).
– The Rebels have the worst lineout success this season (78%), while the Force are the fourth-worst team in that regard (83%).
– The Force (13.1) and the Rebels (13.8) have conceded fewer turnovers per game than any other teams this season.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Rebels||Mike Harris (117)||Scott Higginbotham (5)||Sefenaia Naivalu (736)||Sean McMahon (144)|
|Force||Luke Burton (47)||Luke Morahan (4)||Dane Haylett-Petty (844)||Kyle Godwin (120)|
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Jordy Reid, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Tom English.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Chris Alcock, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Patrick Dellit, 24 Oliver Hoskins.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images