The Rebels will have to shut down Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams if they're to get anything out of Saturday's match in Melbourne, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Amid all the big names in the Chiefs backline, the diminutive Nanai-Williams has emerged as their most potent attacking weapon and the cornerstone of their attack.
He starred early in the season before sustaining a broken finger against the Stormers in Cape Town. The injury, however, didn't affect his form, as he marked his return with two stand-out performances against the Crusaders and Force.
The 25-year-old has made 12 clean breaks and beaten 17 defenders in 2015, with his match-influencing performances earning him a place in Samoa's preliminary 58-man squad to face the All Blacks in July.
The Rebels have not beaten the Chiefs in three attempts and with the Hamilton-based outfit on a four-match winning streak, the hosts will need a superhuman defensive effort to break that drought.
Separated by seven spots on the overall log, Dave Rennie's team should pick up maximum points on Saturday, but will do well to prevent the Rebels from claiming any bonus points.
Rennie has made seven changes, with props Pauliasi Manu and Ben Tameifuna, lock Michael Fitzgerald, flank Liam Messam, flyhalf Andrew Horrell and winger James Lowe all promoted to the starting XV, while Nanai-Williams shifts from left to right wing.
The inclusion of flank Jordy Reid and lock Luke Jones are the only changes to the Rebels side.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Rebels 0, Chiefs 3
In Melbourne: Rebels 0, Chiefs 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Chiefs have won all three meetings between these two sides, however the last two yielded a losing bonus point.
– The Chiefs have won four in a row, their best run in a single campaign since racking up six straight wins in June 2013.
– The Hamilton-based side has won three of their last four away games, while their last three losses away from home have all been by fewer than five points.
– The Melbourne-based outfit has lost five of their last six against New Zealand teams, scoring over 20 points in just one of those games.
– The Rebels have scored the fewest second half tries this season (six), less than half as many as the Chiefs (13).
– The Chiefs rank joint third in terms of tries scored this season (27), while no side has scored fewer than the Rebels (15).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Rebels||Mike Harris (83)||Lopeti Timani (3)||Mike Harris (487)||Sean McMahon (105)|
|Chiefs||Aaron Cruden (93)||James Lowe (5)||James Lowe (684)||Matt Symons (101)|
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Tom English, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Chiefs – 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Andrew Horrell, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Bryce Heem.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images