Rebels promise physical struggle

2011-03-11 00:00

THE Rebels are gearing up for a fierce physical struggle in Melbourne today but John Plumtree’s Sharks could surprise the Super Rugby debutants with the pace of their attacking rugby.

The Rebels’ astute and respected coach Rod Macqueen has spent the week preparing his forwards for a ferocious battle against the most “aggressive” team in Super Rugby and certainly both teams will be looking to impose themselves physically from the first whistle.

The Rebels, as Macqueen has pointed out, struggled painfully in the set pieces in losing heavily to first the Waratahs and then the Chiefs.

The losses bracketed an upset home win over the rudderless Brumbies but Macqueen has emphasised that the Rebels cannot allow the Sharks to out-muscle them at the set piece, and at the breakdown, if they are to stay in the contest.

In contrast, the Sharks will be hoping that the cooler climes of Melbourne, after the heat and humidity of Durban and Perth, will encourage their high-paced attacking game, the quick switches and their slick ball-in-the-hand approach.

But, of course, the platform still has to be laid at forward and Plumtree is aware that unless the Sharks do the hard work first they could be undone by the enthusiastic home side.

With John Smit, back at tighthead in place of Bok Jannie du Plessis, having his first start in the competition — and in a position he does not particularly enjoy — the Sharks scrum might lack the cohesion of the first three rounds. But Smit will contribute, both as a leader and in his general play, and the Springbok captain does need the rugby.

The Rebels have been boosted by the return from injury of lock Kevin O’Neill, the tall New Zealander who played for the All Blacks against the Springboks in 2008, but Wallaby scrumhalf Sam Cordingley remains on the sidelines.

O’Neill said yesterday that the Rebels would enjoy being measured against the best in the competition.

“The boys are looking forward to it with a little bit of ache in the belly this week. The Sharks have performed well over the last few years. They’ve got big boys out there and they’ve got some really good athletes. They’re obviously a big challenge for us.”

Plumtree is certainly not taking the Rebels for granted and was quick to point out that their backline containS Wallabies Mark Gerrard, Stirling Mortlock and Julian Huxley along with England flyhalf Danny Cipriani and they are capable of punishing any mistakes.

The Rebels’ Wallaby prop Nic Henderson said he would “have no trouble getting up for the game”.

“The Sharks forwards are so big and strong and the way they play the game is so combative.” But Henderson said the Rebel forwards are determined to put their failure against the Chiefs behind them.

“We judge ourselves and obviously we let ourselves down,” he said.

Macqueen has labelled the Sharks “the most feared team in the competition”, a glowing tribute aimed as much at his own players as it was at the media.

The Rebels, as newcomers to Super Rugby, have obviously been targeted as one of the more vulnerable teams in the competition but they will be geed-up for the contest and the Sharks cannot afford to lose focus.

And that is the challenge of this marathon of a competition, maintaining concentration and intensity week in and out for five months.

“If we have the wrong attitude, the Rebels can hurt us,” said Plumtree.

Conversely, if the Sharks are on the ball, both physically and mentally, they will stay on top of the log with their fourth successive victory today.

 

TEAMS

Rebels

15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 12 Julian Huxley, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.

Replacements: 16 Heath Tessman, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Hugh Pyle, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Luke Rooney.

Sharks

15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Adrian Jacobs.

Referee: Chris Pollock NZ). Kick-off: 10.40 am (SS1).

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