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Preview: Rebels v Chiefs

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Friday, May 1, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 2 May at 9.40pm (NZST)
AAMI Park, Melbourne

Played: 3 (2011-14, DNP 2012)
Rebels wins: 0
Chiefs wins: 3

Rebels points: 59
Chiefs points: 99

Last match: Chiefs 22 Rebels 16, 12.04.14 in Hamilton


Round 12 teams: http://bit.ly/1GJXsxF

Form: The eleventh placed Rebels have had a season to be proud of considering their status as a fledging franchise, winning four from nine so far in 2015.

To defeat the Chiefs for the first time would go alongside their stunning 20-10 round one victory against the Crusaders in Christchurch, as an upset win in Melbourne would allow the Rebels to keep in touching distance of the top six.

The big transformation for the Rebels has been their defence, now giving up a club best 20 points per game, while only twice this season has a side been able to score four tries against them.

The Chiefs meanwhile are looking scary, no team has more offloads (166), clean breaks (106) or has beaten more defenders (211) despite some big deficits in possession.

They are playing with that aggressive style we saw during their glory years of 2012 and 2013, while their ability to adapt match-to-match, almost minute-to-minute tactically speaks volumes of their coaching arsenal.

Still, there is nagging habit of being run awfully close by teams, and there would have been some tough talk during the week considering the Force last week became the first side this year to put four tries on Dave Rennie’s men.

Key Players: The major engine of the Rebels efforts comes from a strong back row, led by the double Wallabies act of Scott Higginbotham and Sean McMahon. The latter brings a low body profile and preferred ‘on the deck’ playing style unlike his opposition Liam Messam – who doesn’t mind roaming out wide.

Equally the Rebels scrum is not to be ignored, Paul Alo-Emile has been folding some of his rival props in half this seson while Lopeti Timani at lock brings plenty of ballast to the scrum.

The Melbourne backline hasn’t been overly successful when it comes to scoring tries (15 in nine matches, equal bottom with the Lions), but the talent is there. Tamati Ellison, Dom Shipperley and Mike Harris have enough nous to ensure the Chiefs backline should not run rampant, at least in a perfect world.

However the visitors big men out wide will look to do exactly that led by their heavyweight midfield, backed by the smooth runs of James Lowe and Tom Marshall.

Brad Weber’s game is improving as the season continues, while SBW and Charlie Ngatai are laying claim to be the best centre combination.

Sam Cane’s form is fantastic and his work rate will be required, while Ben Tameifuna and Pauliasi Manu will be in trouble if they take the home scrum lightly.

Squad update: Rebels flanker Jordy Reid will make his first Super Rugby start for 2015, in one of two changes to the starting lineup to face the Chiefs on Saturday night at AAMI Park.

Reid, who is in his third season at the Club, will start at openside flanker, while Luke Jones returns after missing the bonus point defeat against the Waratahs at ANZ Stadium last weekend.

Tom English is the final addition to the squad, as Tony McGahan reverts to a split of five forwards and three backs on his bench.

Pauliasi Manu and Ben Tameifuna take over the duties in the front row for the Chiefs with lock Michael Fitzgerald starting. Brodie Retallick is out for four weeks with a left shoulder injury. This is the opposite shoulder to the one injured earlier this year.

Captain Liam Messam comes back into the side and Andrew Horrell gets his chance in the No 10 jersey. James Lowe returns onto the left wing, with dynamic playmaker Tim Nanai-Williams moving to the right wing.

Siate Tokolahi, Johan Bardoul and Bryce Heem move to the bench and are joined by prop Jamie Mackintosh and lock Michael Allardice.