Rebels assistant coach Matt Cockbain expects the Brumbies’ explosive forward pack to give no quarter in their Super Rugby clash on Saturday and has urged his squad to lift accordingly to avoid a fifth season defeat.
While the Rebels enter the match on a high after their upset victory over the Blues last weekend compared to two straight losses for the Brumbies, Cockbain nevertheless said it was fair for Melbourne to claim underdog status.
He said the Brumbies – largely written off in the pre-season – deserved their place at the top of the Australian conference and had proven to be consistent performers every week, unlike the 12th-placed Rebels.
“We’ve been up and down and that’s not a secret,” Cockbain told AAP.
“Anyone who watches us can see we can play at times, but we let ourselves down in concentration and in my mind. The Brumbies have been far more consistent.
“The way they’ve been playing – they might be coming off two losses – but I expect them to come out really fired up.”
Brumbies coach Jake White has made six key changes, significantly bringing in 120kg forward Fotu Auelua for his Super debut while introducing the similarly burly Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre.
Cockbain said it was clear White was planning a more attacking game.
“With Fotu, obviously he’s been brought in for his ball carrying,” said Cockbain.
“They want to try and run at us and we’re going to have to combat that.
“They’re going to probably look to target us and send runners down at Danny (Cipriani) and James (O’Connor) and see if they can test our line and get some go-forward and capitalise off the back of that.”
The Rebels forwards, in particular, must lift in order to give their star trio of O’Connor, Cipriani and Kurtley Beale at fullback as much good ball as possible, Cockbain said.
White had earlier played down the Brumbies’ favouritism, noting the Rebels had played a standout match against the Blues and also had 748 Super caps compared to under 500 for the fledgling ACT franchise.
But he hopes the necessity of the win will pull the home side through, just ahead of a difficult fortnight away in South Africa.