SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW : Blues vs Rebels

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The Rebels will be hoping to consolidate an unlikely pole position on the Australian Conference table when they face a struggling Blues side in Auckland on Saturday.

Apart from their impressive opening round 33-31 win over defending champions the Highlanders, All Black legend Tana Umaga’s side have been failing to gain any form of momentum.

The battle of the number tens will be the determining factor in this encounter. Blues’ Ihaia West has been in excellent kicking form whereas his opposite number, Jack Debreczeni, has looked dangerous on attack, breaking defences with ease.

The home side will rely on the accuracy of West’s boot. The 24-year-old Napier Boys product has a success rate of 74 percent, which includes 20 penalties – the most by any place kicker.

Debreczeni on the other hand is not known for his accurate goal-kicking, in fact the Rebels fly-half has been having a horrible season off the tee, so much so that he does not break into the top ten successful goal-kicking list.

His attacking prowess, which allows them to get over the advantage line with ease, has however been a vital factor for the visitors. With the home side having conceded 72 percent of their tries after the second phase the 22-year-old New Zealand born player’s skill and flair might just come in handy for the Melbourne outfit.

The visitors will go into this one beaming with confidence after a brace of tries from Reece Hodge in last week’s bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs. But despite being atop the Australian Conference table they have not won in New Zealand since the opening round 20-10 victory over the Crusaders in last year’s competition.

The last time the teams met: The Rebels set a new club record by achieving their sixth Super Rugby win with a 42-22 try-scoring bonus-point victory over the Blues at AAMI Park. The Melbourne side had never managed to win six games in a season but set a new benchmark. With Wallabies loose forward Sean McMahon out with a hip injury the Rebels relied on replacement flank Colby Fainga’a’s brilliance, both on attack and defence. His fellow back-rower, Jordy Reid also gave the Blues plenty of headaches, putting in a whooping 18 tackles – the most in the match – while number eight Scott Higginbotham scored his 30th Super Rugby try.

Previous results:

2015: Rebels won 42-22 in Melbourne
2013: Blues won 36-32 in Auckland
2012: Rebels won 34-23 in Melbourne
2011: Blues won 40-23 in North Harbour

The teams:

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu/Hoani Matenga, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew/Namatahi Waa, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Melani Nanai or Matt Duffie

Rebels: 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Kotaro Matsushima

Date: Saturday, April 30
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 17:15 local (05:15 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Brett Johnson
TMO: Ben Skeen


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