Rebels' defence outshining much-hyped attack

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They have a star-studded attack but it's defence that has pleased Rebels coach Dave Wessels most in their 2-0 start to the season.

Wessels admitted his side “got out of jail” in a 24-19 win over the Highlanders, he was happy with his side's 

“I think the thing that made me most pleased was our defence, they had 81 per cent of possession in the second half, we only conceded two linebreaks.

"It’s defence we're most proud of at the moment and that’s coupled with the capacity that guys have worked hard on in the off-season.

“The guys have been able to work for long periods with intensity and that's coming through in our defence.

“While we definitely want to be a team that attacks, it’s defence that makes you consistently competitive.”

The Rebels attack has been tweaked in 2019, with the Melbourne side playing an intense, flat structure somewhat evocative of the Brumbies under Jake White, a side with which Wessels also made his Australian coaching start.

Wessels said, though,  it was a case of building a system for the cattle he had after an inconsistent attack in 2018.

“We were quite inconsistent at the end of the year, there were some good moments but there were moments where we were not playing at our best," he said.

So, we've been trying to build some philosophies to give us some of those good moments more often.

“What we have now has really come out of this group, we tailor it to the players we have and it’s enabled us to recruit quite specifically for certain types of players.”

One of the players that fits right into Wessels’ system on both sides of the ball is workhorse lock Luke Jones, whose combination with Matt Philip is already becoming a threatening one.

“Luke Jones, he's got a huge workrate, he’s good in contact and he's also very good in the lineout so it’s very handy to have that clarity to build all parts of our program,” he said.

The Rebels coach will have some selection headaches this week with Campbell Magnay adding to the glut of midfield options

Billy Meakes and Tom English have combined well in the centres in the first two matches but Wallaby Reece Hodge will be pushing for a start and Wessels said Magnay was also in that frame.

“We definitely see Campbell as a specialist centre, he's a very athletic guy, 106kg surprisingly athletic, and the  exciting thing is he's still young.

“Billy and Engo are working well together. That means guys have to compete to try and get in there.

“The whole level of training and competition goes up which can only be a good thing.”

The Rebels host the Brumbies on Saturday night at AAMI Park, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.