There are just three days to go until Super Rugby 2019 kicks off and it’s going to be a critical one for the Aussie sides.
RUGBY.com.au has run their eyes over each of the Australian teams in the competition, starting with the Rebels.
Robbie Abel, Jermaine Ainsley, Adam Coleman, Quade Cooper, Angus Cottrell, Ben Daley, Tom English, Mees Erasmus, Pone Faamausili, Tetera Faulkner, Will Genia, Harrison Goddard, Esei Ha’angana, Richard Hardwick, Dane Haylett-Petty, Ross Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Trevor Hosea, Sam Jeffries, Luke Jones, Marika Koroibete, Rob Leota, Jack Maddocks, Campbell Magnay, Billy Meakes, Isi Naisarani, Matt Philip, Anaru Rangi, Hugh Roach, Michael Ruru, Fereti Saaga, Sam Talakai, Matt Toomua, Sione Tuipulotu, Semisi Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Brad Wilkin
Naisarani has probably ultimately gone under the radar when it comes to Rebels additions but with the departure of Amanaki Mafi, Naisarani is going to be vital to the Rebels success. His strength and athleticism will be handy coming off the back of the scrum combining with an already healthy back row.
Cooper can be polarising but there’s no arguing that the experienced flyhalf is a much-needed acquisition for the Rebels. Aside from his well-worn combination with scrumhalf Will Genia, Cooper’s history at 10 fills a major hole in the Rebels side that was last year never satisfactorily filled.
Jones is another set to fill an important gap for the Rebels in 2019, with his ability to play in the second or back row invaluable. Injuries have dented the Rebels in recent seasons and the addition of a forward utility who has played across the globe like Jones will only be a boost against some of the tougher set piece teams in Super Rugby.
Can Quade Cooper and Will Genia reignite their Queensland magic? Things seem to be going smoothly in the reunion of Quade Cooper and WIll Genia in Melbourne but proof of their connection won’t be seen until they play their first game. Both have grown from stints overseas and their ability to spark the Rebels will be watched closely from round one.
Will a team of stars be enough to make history? The Rebels’ squad is stacked but the true challenge for Dave Wessels’ men will be if their credentials on paper will translate into success on the field.
How will Haylett-Petty handle the captaincy? Haylett-Petty has taken the Rebels reins from Adam Coleman this year and it will be fascinating to watch what, if any, changes it brings to the side.
What impact will Geoff Parling have?
The Rebels’ set piece had some improvement to do after 2018 and the influence of former British and Irish Lions lock Geoff Parling will be telling once the season kicks off.
The blue print
The Rebels’ backline is one of the most intimidating in the competition. From round one, they could have Genia, Cooper, Koroibete, Meakes, English, Maddocks and Haylett-Petty. That’s before even Reece Hodge, Campbell Magnay and Matt To’omua come into the picture. The one thing they have been missing in recent years is a consistent specialist 10 but once they unlock their attack, they have the firepower to score with almost every opportunity.
The Rebels have Wallabies in almost every department in their squad and that could prove the difference in a World Cup year. Resting policies will impact every Super Rugby team ahead of September’s global tournament but the Rebels would seem like the most likely to be able to handle any of those requests no matter which positions they come in.
The weak link
The Rebels looked unstoppable at times in 2018 but too many times they let themselves down within games and in stretches of the season. It’s something coach Dave Wessels had circled as an area for improvement after narrowly missing out on finals last year and it will be critical to taking the next step.
What they need to win Super Rugby
Paper to turn into performance
For their stars to all come together. They have an enviable squad of players for 2019, with Matt To’omua set to arrive later in the year, but their lineup on paper means nothing if they can’t bring it together.
The Rebels fell apart in the middle of the 2018 season and ultimately missed out on the finals by points difference after a heart-breaking final round loss to the Highlanders. They fell away in games throughout the year, most notably against the Waratahs in Sydney, and they can’t afford that this year.
The key stats
Leading try scorer
The headline you won’t see
Rebels snubbed in World Cup squad announcement
If the Rebels were a Netflix show, they’d be ….
Black Mirror Bandersnatch. A team with a lineup that could be straight out of a video game that gives its creator plenty of chances to choose their own adventure.