Bulls' midfield worries Rebels
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Melbourne have been doing their homework and are bracing for a Bulls midfield charge when they meet in a crucial Super Rugby battle at AAMI Park on Friday.
The Rebels and Pretoria-based Bulls are both one point behind their conference leaders with five rounds to play, with Melbourne chasing the Brumbies and the Bulls nudging the Sharks.
The home side, in particular, has a golden chance to reclaim the Australian pool lead with the Brumbies on a bye.
Centre Billy Meakes said the Rebels had been studying their opponents and were expecting plenty of traffic through the midfield.
“We’ve done a fair bit of analysis on their midfield and they carry through there 95 percent of the time so there are some big boys there so we will have to warm the shoulders up,” Meakes said.
“Hodgey [Reece Hodge], Quadey [Quade Cooper] and I have got a job to do there but we’re excited about the challenge.”
Melbourne are yet to beat a South African team this year with their opponents finding success by rushing the Rebels’ flatline attack.
Meakes said his team had to be ready for the Bulls’ noted physicality, and look for ways to play to their own strengths.
“We acknowledge what they’re good at and physicality is a big part of that and they’re going to bring that so we need to match that,” he said.
“We’re confident we can get the job done.”
Cooper was cleared to play after suffering a head knock in last round’s win over the Reds, while star recruit Wallaby No.10 Matt Toomua was included on the bench after arriving from UK side Leicester on Sunday.
Meakes said Toomua had brought a wealth of knowledge.
“It’s good to have him at the club as he’s obviously got a wealth of knowledge at Super Rugby and Test level so to have him here, pushing people for spots, and just his presence around the group is great.”
Among other changes, the Rebels have lost hard-working backrowers Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani to injury, which the Bulls will look to exploit through the likes of veteran Springboks No.8 Duane Vermeulen.