Preview: Rebels v Crusaders – 27/05/2017

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It could be a procession for Super Rugby leaders the Crusaders when they run out to face the Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday.

12 straight wins have been nothing short of sensational from the Christchurch outfit and we have run out of superlatives to throw at them.

Six of the victories have been bonus-point successes and with the Rebels flailing near the foot of the table, this should be win number 13.

When the pair last went toe-to-toe in 2016 it was an 85-26 hammering from the Crusaders and even with Scott Robertson rotating his line-up for bigger tests to come, something around that margin is not to be written off. Yes, the visitors have the game to cut loose in Melbourne.

What is also worrying for the struggling Rebels is that only one of their last seven matches at home against teams from outside Australia has been decided by a margin of less than 22 points (L6, D1). Furthermore the last time they took on a Kiwi side they conceded 51 points.

More positives come for the in-form Crusaders by the fact they have emerged victorious from each of their last five Super Rugby visits to Australia; at no point in Super Rugby history have they enjoyed a longer streak in the nation and we expect that run to continue this week.

This will be the Crusaders’ penultimate game before the June break when the British and Irish Lions series starts as next week they play host to the Highlanders in yet another vital derby. That may help limit the damage the Rebels are expected to take but that could well be wishful thinking for those in Melbourne blue as Robertson clearly sets high standards, which right now the Crusaders are meeting week after week.

The last time the teams met: It was a procession for the Crusaders in their 2016 game as they ran in 13 tries to win 85-26. Sam Whitelock, Ryan Crotty (2), Scott Barrett, Alex Hodgman, Nemani Nadolo, Johnny McNicholl (3), Codie Taylor (2), Pete Samu and Matt Todd all crossed the whitewash with Richie Mo’unga kicking 14 points and Nadolo six via conversions. In reply, Nic Stirzaker, Reece Hodge, Culum Retallick and Sefanaia Naivalu were the Rebels’ try-scorers on a forgetful evening in Christchurch as they were chasing shadows for much of the game.

Previous results:

2016: Crusaders won 85-26 in Christchurch
2015: Rebels won 20-10 in Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 25-19 in Melbourne
2013: Crusaders won 30-26 in Christchurch
2012: Rebels won 28-19 in Melbourne

The teams:

Rebels: 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Mitch Inman, 23 Jonah Placid

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Pete Samu, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge

Date: Saturday, May 27
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams, Damon Murphy
TMO: George Ayoub


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