Tonight the Rebels host the Highlanders in Melbourne for what will be the final match for both sides in the 2013 Super Rugby competition. Join us at 7.30pm AEST for all the action with live scores and blog updates.
The first day of the post-James O’Connor era for the Rebels begins tonight.
In the immediate aftermath of the Wallabies’ loss to the Lions last weekend, O’Connor was advised his services wouldn’t be required at the club after this season.
Immediately that intention is felt in the Rebels final teams-sheet with O’Connor riding the pine.
Faith that Bryce Hegarty (fly-half), Tom English (centre), Jason Woodward (wing) and Angus Roberts (full-back) are the way forward has been signalled, with all of them included in the starting backline.
An interesting point to note is that Roberts and Hegarty are both in the starting side, which means the hot-and-cold Rebel of the year, Woodward, has moved over to the wing.
Incoming coach Tony McGahan will no doubt look on with interest at all the young faces populating the team.
Hugh Pyle, Caderyn Neville and Luke Jones are all young players in similar positions that will be trying to impress as well.
In particular Jones and Pyle might see a small window of opportunity for higher representation in hybrid the second-row/blindside positions on a Wallabies bench.
Re-signed Shota Horie along with youngsters Paul Alo-Emile and Jordy Reid are on the bench as well.
The future is now for the Rebels.
The Highlanders are coming off the back of a highly entertaining and somewhat ridiculous 49-44 victory against the Hurricanes last week.
The final six tries to five scoreline is one of the bigger ones this season.
The Highlanders have possibly the best one-two punch in Super Rugby at halfback with Aaron Smith (incumbent All-Black) and Fumiaki Tanaka the Japanese import with NOS and accuracy resembling something out of Tokyo Drift.
The rest of their backline will be licking its lips at the defensive record and considering the points they racked up last weekend – look for Hosea Gear, Kade Poki and Jason Emery in space.
And that’s without focusing on my rugby-crush, Ben Smith, possibly the form rugby player in the world right now, if it’s not Leigh Halfpenny.
With stalwarts such as Brad Thorn, Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore in the pack the Highlanders have probably underachieved there this year, but they’ll present a tough assignment for the Rebels to match-up front.
Don’t forget to log on at 7.30pm AEST for live scores, blogging, banter and commentary of what should be a highly entertaining last ride for each of these sides in 2013.