• Rebels must repel Kuridrani threat

    Hard-running Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani will pose a serious attacking threat to the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

    The 23-year-old's size (1.92m and 102kg), speed and hand-off make him difficult to stop in open space or close to the line. He scored five tries in last year's Vodacom Super Rugby tournament while creating several others, and crossed the whitewash again during the Brumbies' 47-3 win against the Reds in this year's opening round.

    Kuridrani has made three clean breaks so far in 2015 (equal second most) and beaten six defenders (equal third most). He's also made three offloads, showing his ability to keep the ball alive in the tackle.

    While it's his exploits on attack that attract the most attention, Kuridrani is an equally adept defender, knowing exactly when to come out of the line and make the tackle.

    If Kuridrani fires on Saturday, the Brumbies, who welcome captain Stephen Moore back into the starting lineup, should get their second win of the season.

    Stephen Larkham's men will still be kicking themselves for losing 19-17 to the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend. Their failure to control the ball from a lineout inside their 22 gave the hosts a scrum, from which they won a last-minute penalty that Aaron Cruden slotted. It capped off a sloppy second half for the Australians, who made a number of handling errors and conceded several turnovers.

    Larkham will be hoping for a round-three performance similar to that which his side produced in round one against the Reds.

    However, the Rebels should provide far more resistence on Saturday, based on their first two results of the season – a shock 20-10 win against the Crusaders in Melbourne followed by a 38-28 defeat at home to the champion Waratahs, in which they scored four tries.

    The Rebels will also take heart from the fact that they have beaten the Brumbies in Melbourne twice before, the first time the teams met in 2011 (25-24) and again in 2014 (32-24). The Brumbies, though, comfortably won last year's return match in Canberra (37-10).

    HEAD TO HEAD
    Overall: Rebels 2, Brumbies 6
    In Melbourne: Rebels 2, Brumbies 2

    STATS AND FACTS
    – The Rebels’ largest ever Super Rugby victory (35-14 vs Cheetahs) came a year ago to the day of this game.
    – The Rebels have lost six of their last seven clashes against the Brumbies.
    – The Rebels have the worst tackle success rate (85%) in the league after two rounds.
    – Consequently, opponents of the Rebels have gained more metres (1,066) than against any other side so far.
    – The Rebels have scored exactly three points in the first half in each of the last three meetings between the sides (won one, lost two); the Brumbies have scored 10-plus first-half points in all eight meetings with the Rebels.

    Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
    Rebels Mike Harris (18) Lopeti Timani (2) Mike Harris (99) Sean McMahon (26)
    Brumbies Christian Leali'ifano (26) Ita Vaea, James Dargaville, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Robbie Coleman, Tevita Kuridrani (1) Henry Speight (109) Nic White (15)

    Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
    Subs: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu.

    Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
    Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Jesse Mogg.

    Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

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    Simon Borchardt