This will be the Rebels’ third season of Super Rugby and by winning only seven matches in the past two years, it’s clear that they haven’t made an impact yet. At least head coach Damien Hill decided to stick around for another year and this type of stability might just see them make it in the long run.
Where they previously shopped for recognized names, they were rather moderate this time around and opted to draw in young talent from far and wide. The recruitment of experienced Reds flanker, Scott Higginbotham, got everybody to sit up straight, for in combination with Luke Jones and captain Gareth Delve, the trio could make quite a nuisance of themselves.
With Stirling Mortlock and Adam Freier having moved behind the scenes and the loss of crowd favorites Mark Gerard and Julian Huxley, one might wonder if they haven’t lost too much experience. However, I think getting Rory Sidey on board will strengthen the midfield considerably and I can’t want to see him and the likes of Kurtley Beale and Cooper Vuna run off an in-form and injury free James O’Connor.
If the Rebels can create pressure up front and get momentum going, we might see some magic in the backline. The tight five are a bit light in experience and it will take some doing to keep them calm in order to grind out the hard yards. Composure will be of the utmost importance and we all saw what they could do when they completely surprised the Crusaders last year.
Although I suspect that they might ruffle a few feathers this year, I just don’t see them playing consistently enough to compete with the big guns yet.
My prediction for the Melbourne Rebels is an 11th place finish.
by Jackie Smit