The Rebels can take advantage of a Reds team in complete disarray in Melbourne on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Rebels lost 45-25 to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend, but should be commended for a second-half fightback that led to four tries. The Reds, though, deserve nothing but condemnation for their humiliating 22-6 defeat against the Force in Brisbane which culminated in the sacking of coach Richard Graham.
The Rebels have made great strides under coach Tony McGahan, finishing a franchise-high 10th in the 2015 tournament. They started the 2016 competition well, beating the Force, followed by the plucky defeat to the Bulls.
The Rebels have scored six more tries and made 11 more turnovers than the Reds but shown the same defensive frailties, although the Reds won't be offering much on attack on Saturday.
By contrast, the Reds have nothing going their way. It looks like they are in need of a whole new team instead of just a coaching makeover. The board's sacking of Graham was justified, but whether he was hindered by an inadequate squad will soon become apparent.
New co-coaches Nick Stiles and Matt O'Connor will not have a better opportunity than against the Rebels to prove that the Reds players have more to offer than what was seen during Graham's tenure.
However, if the Rebels come out and play the entire match like they did in the final 40 minutes against the Bulls, attacking the gainline with purpose, defending with might and competing at the breakdown, the complacent Reds will be heading for yet another defeat in an already trying campaign.
The Rebels have made a solitary change to their starting lineup, recalling flank Jordy Reid, while the Reds swapped around five players including the relegation of fullback Ayumu Goromaru to the bench in favour of Karmichael Hunt.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 8, Rebels 2
In Melbourne: Reds 4, Rebels 1
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Reds have won eight of the last 10 clashes between these teams since the Rebels' admission to Super Rugby, though the Melbourne outfit have recorded their two wins in the last four against against the Reds.
– The Rebels have led the Reds at the half-time break on four occasions, winning none, though both their wins against the Reds have come after being level at the major interval.
– The Reds have won only two of their last eight away matches within Australia, though the first of those two wins was a 36-20 defeat of the Rebels in round 17 in 2014.
– The Reds boast the best lineout success so far this season (97%) and are one of three teams yet to lose a scrum on their own feed so far.
– The Rebels win an average of 12 turnovers per game, the most of any team in the competition.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Rebels||Reece Hodge (20)||Ben Meehan, Reece Hodge (2)||Tom English (98)||Sean McMahon (24)|
|Reds||Ayumu Goromaru (11)||Jake McIntyre (1)||Eto Nabuli (137)||Jake Schatz (20)|
Rebels – 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon (c), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith. Subs: 16 Pat Leafa , 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Steve Cummins, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Dan Hawkins, 23 Kotaro Matsushima.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Waita Setu, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Caderyn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Faagase. Subs: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referee: Graham Cooper (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images