PREVIEW: Rebels v Highlanders
Friday, March 25, 2016 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
The Rebels have won their last two games against New Zealand sides but in four games against the Highlanders they have only one win. In their last two meetings, the scores have been close, 38-37 to the Rebels in Melbourne in 2013 and 33-30 to the Highlanders in Dunedin in 2014.
Goal-kicking could be an advantage for the Highlanders. With Lima Sopoaga leading the way the Highlanders have a 74 percent success rate compared to only 68 percent for the Rebels. The Australian side have shown an ability to use the ball beating 24.3 players compared to 14.8 for the Highlanders. That is the third best in the competition. But the Highlanders lead the way with effective tackles being the best-ranked side.
Fullback Reece Hodge announced his arrival in Super Rugby by equaling the club record for points on debut when scoring 20 points, including two tries, in the side's win over the Force in the opening round of the competition. But if they need players to concentrate on defensively, flanker Sean McMahon, who is ranked third in the competition for carries with 46, fullback Jonah Placid and second five-eighths Mitch Inman share eighth ranking with 42 carries. Ben Smith is the only member of the Highlanders to register, in sixth place, with 44.
Three members of the Rebels side have Highlanders membership on their rugby CVs. All Blacks Adam Thomson and Tamati Ellison and Scott Fuglistaller have all played for the side, and under the coaching of Jamie Joseph. Another former player Cullum Retallick is unavailable for consideration due to injury.
The Rebels will relish playing at home. They've had a hectic schedule. Their season opened in Perth with a 25-19 win over the Force, then they travelled to Pretoria to be beaten 45-25 by the Bulls. They beat the Reds 25-23 in Melbourne and then hopped on a flight to Tokyo where they beat the Sunwolves 35-9.
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 (captain), 6.Jordy Reid, 5.Lopeti Timani, 4.Luke Jones, 3.Laurie Weeks, 2.James Hanson, 1.Toby Smith.
Reserves: 16.Pat Leafa, 17.Cruze Ah Nau, 18.Jamie Hagan, 19.Sam Jeffries, 20.Scott Fuglistaller, 21.Nic Stirzaker, 22.Dan Hawkins, 23.Reece Hodge
Highlanders: 15.Ben Smith, 14.Jack Wilson, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 12.Rob Thompson, 11.Patrick Osborne, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 9.Aaron Smith, 8.Liam Squire, 7.Shane Christie, 6.Luke Whitelock, 5.Joe Wheeler, 4.Mark Reddish, 3.Siosiua Halanukonuka, 2.Ash Dixon, 1.Brendon Edmonds.
Reserves: 16.Liam Coltman, 17.Craig Millar, 18.Josh Hohneck, 19.Dan Pryor, 20.Elliot Dixon, 21.Josh Renton, 22.Hayden Parker, 23.Jason Emery.
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