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The struggling Rebels will be hurting after their 44-3 humbling at the hands of the Kings. Their pride is no doubt wounded and they are also probably playing for their Super Rugby futures as they are in the frame as being an Australian side to be axed from next season.
Unfortunately for them, they have never beaten the Lions. In fact, the Melbourne-based side have not beaten a side visiting from outside Australia for more than a year, the last being a win over the Cheetahs in Round 9, 2016.
And to think they are going to turn it around now is naive thinking. Especially with the injuries to key players. Captain and scrum-half Nic Stirzaker has been ruled out while his back-up scrum-half Mitch Snowden is out for six weeks meaning they have had to recall Harrison Goddard from the Australia U20 side to provide cover on the bench. Third-choice Ben Meehan will start.
The Lions are on a six-match winning streak, the longest in their Super Rugby history. They are comfortably leading Africa Conference 2 and are second behind the Crusaders on the overall table.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has recalled the experienced trio of Toby Smith, James Hanson and Laurie Weeks for the club’s return to AAMI Park. Smith will make his first start of the season after he returned from a hamstring injury with 30 minutes off the bench against the Kings last weekend. Hanson and Weeks have been named in the run-on team for the first time since the victory over the Brumbies in Round 8. McGahan has made a total of six changes to the starting line-up with the inclusion of lock Dominic Day, flanker Hugh Sinclair and scrum-half Ben Meehan. Rebels U20 vice-captain Harrison Goddard is set to make his Super Rugby debut at scrum-half.
Lions coach Johann Ackermann has made three changes. In the only change to the back-line, Ross Cronjé returns to start at scrum-half where he takes over from Springbok number nine Faf de Klerk who drops down to the replacements bench. The other changes are up front, with Lourens Ersamus preferred to Andries Ferreira in the second row while Cyle Brink comes into the run-on side on the flank where he replaces Ruan Ackermann. There are also some changes amongst the replacements. Akker van der Merwe and Hencus van Wyk come in as the back-up hooker and tighthead prop respectively while Ackermann and Robert Kruger will be the second row and loose forward cover.
The Rebels are in a rut. They lost their opening five matches before an extremely narrow win over the Brumbies and a draw with the Sharks. Just when it looked they were putting together a run, they were bought crashing back down to earth with a 44-3 walloping at the hands of the Kings last weekend.
The Lions are in the best form they have experienced in Super Rugby history. The six in a row they have won since 18 March represents the longest winning streak in their Super Rugby history. They have won eight of their nine games this season, losing only to the Jaguares back in Round Three.
The Lions should roar to victory. Lions by 20.
Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a (c), 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Will Miller, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Robert Kruger, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.