Super Rugby preview: Hurricanes v Rebels
Thursday, May 2, 2019 Campbell Burnes Getty Images
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Played: 7 (2011-18)
Wins: Hurricanes 6, Rebels 1
Last time: Hurricanes 50 Rebels 19 at AAMI Park, Melbourne (March 30, 2018)
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Hurricanes – second-ranked in the New Zealand conference – face the Rebels – top of the Australian conference and fresh off a much-needed bye.
Running your eye down the team lists would indicate a potentially close battle, both backlines full of international firepower. But the Hurricanes, who have lost just once in Super Rugby history to the Melburnians, are firm favourites, having wiped the mat with the Chiefs to the tune of 47-19 just last Saturday. It was easily their most impressive outing of 2019, in which their performances have not always matched the Ws column.
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While Jordie Barrett rightly won many of the plaudits for his two-try display from fullback against the Chiefs, his brother Beauden, who assumes the captain’s armband for just the second time, was in sterling form off the tee and accurate, if understated, around the track. Ardie Savea will be primed to continue his blockbusting form and his try last weekend, finishing an 80m movement, showed his superb allround skills and technical ability.
There will be no TJ Perenara versus Will Genia match-up at halfback, as the former is on All Blacks rest, so Richard Judd gets another opportunity to test himself against Genia, who was once fit to rank as the world’s best No 9.
The Rebels, at 5-4, will miss injured lock Adam Coleman, but welcome back fullback and skipper Dane Haylett-Petty, meaning the Hurricanes’ kick-chase game will need to be on point. Vice-captain and blindside flanker Angus Cottrell also returns from concussion.
The visitors are coming off defeats to the Stormers and Waratahs. What they would give to win in the New Zealand capital to keep their noses in front of their competitive conference in which only the Sunwolves look out of playoffs contention.
It’s family day at Westpac Stadium, so the Canes faithful should be out in full voice.
The under-rated and in-form Wes Goosen wears the No 14 jersey and will mark the dangerous Marika Koroibete.
Goosen has emerged from the shadow of players such as Vince Aso and Ben Lam in 2019, showing his resourcefulness and finishing ability, which has yielded six tries.
Koroibete has made seven starts but has crossed for just one try, play tending to go the way of Jack Maddocks, but he is a potent finisher in his own right, so it will be fascinating to see if and how this pair try and cancel each other out.
KEEPING IT LIGHT
Injured Hurricanes captain Dane Coles was asked ‘Who is your favourite Barrett?’ by a young fan during the week:
“Their father (Kevin aka Smiley). He’s the most humble of them!” was Coles’ quick as a flash reply.
?? "We'll keep our feet grounded and we'll keep working hard" - Carlos Spencer ahead of Saturday's @Hurricanesrugby clash with the @MelbourneRebelsTHE SCOOP
READ ?? https://t.co/znmjwpg0Gd
? 5.15pm, Saturday
??? Westpac Stadium
?? SKY Sport NZ
?? #HURvREB pic.twitter.com/bmmyXmY1YN— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 1, 2019
Both sides have comparable stats, but the Rebels’ lineout is rather more efficient than that of the home side, at 93% as against 78%.
So the pressure will go on Asafo Aumua, who again gets the nod in the Canes’ No 2 jersey. He will need to find his targets. This is a big game for the talented Isaia Walker-Leawere, winning his first start at lock. Can he match his style with substance, like the indefatigable James Blackwell has done all season? Rebels’ second-rower Luke Jones has stolen eight lineouts this season, the most in Super Rugby.
Conversely, the Rebels have copped seven yellow cards in 2019, whereas the Hurricanes have conceded just two.
Quade Cooper is back in his native New Zealand and will be anxious to recapture his form from the early rounds. He marks the world’s best No 10, so his work may be cut out. But there is form and talent aplenty outside him, notably on the right wing where Jack Maddocks has scored a competition equal-high of eight tries.
The Hurricanes, even without Perenara, are lining up four backs who have won the black jersey, and are finding their fluency, so the Rebels’ defensive line will be sorely tested.
Victory here for the Rebels would be gold, as they have four of their last six games in Melbourne.
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Chase Tiatia, Beauden Barrett (c), Richard Judd, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Isaia Walker-Leawere, James Blackwell, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Asafo Aumua, Fraser Armstrong
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith, Alex Fidow, Kane Leaupepe, Liam Mitchell, Du Plessis Kirifi, Finlay Christie, James Marshall
Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty (c), Jack Maddocks, Tom English, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Rob Leota, Angus Cottrell, Matt Phillip, Luke Jones, Jermaine Ainsley, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner
Reserves: Hugh Roach, Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai, Ross Haylett-Petty, Pone Fa’amausili, Michael Ruru, Billy Meakes, Campbell Magnay
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