Round Four of the Super Rugby season sees two cracking local derbies, with the Melbourne Rebels hosting the Brumbies at AAMI Park (Friday, 7:45pm AEDT) and the NSW Waratahs welcoming their arch-rivals Queensland Reds to the Sydney Cricket Ground (Saturday, 7:45pm AEDT).
The Rebels and Brumbies have already faced off once this year, the Rebels the victors in Canberra in Round One, and they’ll be looking to retain their undefeated record after a strong win at home against the Highlanders last Friday. The Brumbies, on the other hand, pulverised the Chiefs in Canberra a fortnight ago but were on the wrong end of the scoreboard against the Hurricanes in Palmerston North in Round Three; so which performance was more indicative of the season ahead for the men from the Nation’s Capital?
The NSW Waratahs are coming off a bye, and a narrow one-point victory over the Sunwolves which looks a lot better following the Japanese side’s victory against the Chiefs in New Zealand last weekend, while the Queensland Reds are looking for their first win of the season following brave narrow defeats against the Highlanders and Crusaders over the past fortnight.
The Australian Men's Rugby Sevens team started with a bang at the Las Vegas Sevens, topping their pool following victories against Fiji, Scotland and Wales, but defeats to Samoa (Cup Quarter Final) and England (fifth-placed Semi Final) saw them finish the weekend in a disappointing equal seventh; they’ll be determined to earn some much-needed World Rugby Sevens series points in Vancouver.
In the third round of the Buildcorp Super W competition, the Melbourne Rebels and Rugby WA Women will play off (Friday 5:10pm) as part of Friday’s double-header at AAMI Park as they both search for their first win of the campaign, while on Sunday afternoon (3:00pm) last year’s Grand Finalists NSW and Queensland meet at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.
As always, we’ll keep you up to date with all of the best player stories being told in the media with our weekly wrap, the Taylors Wines Top 5, brought to you by our good friends at Taylors Wines (and accompanied by a handy wine tip every edition).
We’ll also bring you all of the Australian Super Rugby team selection news, and fixture information, to make sure that if you can’t get there in person, you know exactly when to lock your television to Fox Sports’ outstanding coverage of the game, or to fire up your Kayo Sports app.
So, with all that said, let’s get into it – Super Rugby, Round Four!
Melbourne Rebels vs. Brumbies
Melbourne Rebels: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Robbie Abel, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Adam Coleman, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Rob Leota, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Bill Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty (C).
Reserves: 16. Anaru Rangi, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Luke Jones, 20. Ross Haylett-Petty, 21. Richard Hardwick 22. Michael Ruru, 23. Reece Hodge.
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. David Pocock, 8. Tom Cusack, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano (C), 11. Andy Muirhead, 12. Tom Wright, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks.
Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. James Slipper, 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Murray Douglas, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Chance Peni
NSW Waratahs vs. Queensland Reds
NSW Waratahs: 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Curtis Rona, 12. Karmichael Hunt, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Israel Folau, 15 Kurtley Beale.
Reserves 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Rory O'Connor, 18. Chris Talakai, Lachlan Swinton, 20. Will Miller, 21. Mitch Short, 22. Mack Mason, 23. Alex Newsome.
Queensland Reds: 1. JP Smith, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Harry Hockings, 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Moses Sorovi, 10. Bryce Hegarty, 11. Sefa Naivalu, 12. Duncan Paia’aua, 13. Samu Kerevi (C), 14. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15. Isaac Lucas.
Reserves: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Caleb Timu, 20. Angus Scott-Young, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Hamish Stewart, 23. Jack Hardy.
1. Moses' trailblazing Rugby journey
Queensland Reds scrumhalf Moses Sorovi always dreamt of wearing the maroon jersey; it's just that he didn't necessarily envisage it being in the XV-a-side code. Sorovi grew up on Yam Island, a two square kilometre blip in the central Torres Strait about 100km northwest of Thursday Island.
As he explained to Rugby.com.au's Emma Greenwood, Lote Tuqiri was his footy idol - but long before his switch to Rugby - and the young Sorovi dreamed of playing for the Broncos or the Queensland maroons on rugby league's hallowed turf. Yam Island has a population of about 500 and there was no organised junior rugby league in the community but that could not stop Sorovi from dreaming big.
"You'd just go to the basketball court and play three-on-three touch and that's it," he said of the organised sporting opportunities open to him as a junior. "It's just an outdoor court ... (you'd) try running, no shoes, you get massive blisters on your feet. We waited until the sun goes down and we'd go and play."
It was not until Sorovi went to boarding school at St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane, almost 3000km to the south, that he was introduced to Rugby but he was hooked immediately. Starting at the Indooroopilly college in Year 8 following older brother George on a scholarship, Sorovi's dreams were now in the other Rugby code.
"I played all my Rugby through St Peters and then graduated after St Peters and went on to the Reds U20s program and kept going. I think back home everyone's dream was to become a rugby league player and play for the Broncos or the Queensland Maroons. I never thought about playing Rugby but St Peters gave me the opportunity to play and now I'm here."
Sorovi's family proudly watches his progress from Yam Island and the newly minted Deadly Choices ambassador would love nothing more than to see more indigenous kids playing Rugby.
"It was out of the blue but it's a privilege to be a part of the Deadly Choices program," he said of the Reds' partnership with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health's popular program. "It'd be awesome for me to be a role model to other indigenous kids - and not only indigenous kids, other kids as well. "It'd be good to see more indigenous kids playing Rugby. There's a lot of good talent playing rugby league but most of them don't get to the NRL. But Rugby's always another pathway to playing professional football and it'd be good to see more follow the Rugby pathway as well."
2. Older, balder Jones loving life back in Melbourne
The reality of just how much Luke Jones had changed since his first stint at Melbourne Rebels was evident after the Round One win against the Brumbies in Canberra. When Jones played his first game for the Rebels in their maiden season in 2011, he was 20, single and had a full head of hair. Now 27, the 197cm lock has returned to the Club after three years in France and he is married, has two kids, and less hair.
And after a deal he made with his new teammates, what little hair Jones had left is now gone, as he explained to the Herald Sun's Russell Gould.
“My hair had been annoying me for a while and I said to some of the guys that if we beat the Brumbies away, I’d shave it,” Jones said. “I just said it to a few guys as a bit of laugh. But you know what Rugby players are like, they don’t forget these things. One of the guys brought the clippers to the changerooms just in case, and they did it there and then. I was ready.”
That Jones was willing to bet his hair on a game against the Brumbies was another indication of how far the Rebels have come since he left. His first match was a 41-21 loss to the Cheetahs in South Africa, and in Jones’ six seasons and 72 games at the Rebels, their best return in one year was seven wins. But word had spread to France, where Jones was playing with Bordeaux, that things were changing in Melbourne under coach Dave Wessels.
Jones got that feeling, too, after meeting Wessels in Sydney before the 2018 season.
“I liked what he had to say about where he was taking the Club,” Jones said. “He was very upfront about what they were expecting, how they wanted to attack their season. That appealed to me."
3. Israel reveals why he didn't move North
Late last year, media speculation linked NSW Waratahs star Israel Folau with a shock switch to the Queensland Reds, having attended high school in Brisbane and played for the Brisbane Broncos and Queensland during his rugby league career.
Speaking with Julian Linden in the Daily Telegraph, Folau admitted he did consider the switch; but ultimately, he couldn't walk away from what he thinks is brewing at Daceyville.
“I had a look at maybe going to the Reds because I do have family there and my wife’s family have also moved there but in the end, from a family point of view with me and my wife, we’re comfortable being in Sydney,” Folau said. “And in terms of Rugby, I felt like we have a special group here at the Waratahs where we could achieve a lot of things and I wanted to be a part of it. I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made.”
Folau scored twice in NSW’s win over the Sunwolves to overtake Joe Roff as Australia’s highest tryscorer in Super Rugby with 58 touchdowns. That’s left him just one short of the all-time record of 59 tries, held by former All Black Doug Howlett, which he could well break against the Reds this weekend.
“I definitely don’t set any goals to break records,” Folau said. "All I try to do is do my best for the team so it’s just a bonus you’re lucky enough to achieve any milestones because it’s not possible without the team.”
4. Noah regrets on interstate move for Lolesio
Just two days after graduating from Gold Coast's The Southport School in 2017, young centre Noah Lolesio packed up his bags and headed to the nation’s capital in pursuit of a professional career with the Brumbies. He had just returned from vice captaining the Australian Schoolboys side and had a George Gregan Scholarship to the University of Canberra waiting for him.
Speak with Eliza Reilly in the Gold Coast Bulletin, Lolesio said he remains convinced it was the right decision.
“I don’t know how I would have went had I stayed on the Gold Coast,” he said. “It was hard to move away from my family but once I settled in and got into a routine in Canberra I started to love my time here. I’ve had no regrets.”
The nineteen-year-old is edging towards a potential Super Rugby debut this season, impressing in pre-season and at training, as well as targeting a big season for the Junior Wallabies at the World Rugby U20 Championship having recently been named in the leadership group.
“I’m loving training with the main squad (at the Brumbies),” he said. “It’s been really humbling and I’ve been welcomed with open arms. I’m loving every day and my Rugby knowledge is constantly increasing.
“I wouldn’t mind a bit of game time but I’m learning every day off the guys and I now understand what it takes to play at that level.
“Being selected in the (Junior Wallabies) leadership group shows me that I’ve been doing my job well but I don’t want to change who I am as a person just because I’m now in the group. I’ve tried to develop myself as a cool and calm head on field and at training in comparison to previous years and just really try to keep a sense of calm in the group.”
5. Polota-Nau propels himself back in to Super Rugby
The NSW Waratahs sprung a shock this week when they announced the return of Wallaby star Tatafu Polota-Nau on a short-term loan from English side Leicester.
Speaking with Wayne Smith in The Australian, 'Taf' admitted that when Leicester Tigers boss Geordan Murphy asked to see him last week, he feared the worst.
“I thought, this is interesting …. am I fired?” Polota-Nau explained.
Polota-Nau has only recently returned from a medial ligament injury that had kept him out for seven weeks, and Murphy was actually proposing a short-term stint back home.
“I thought about it all afternoon but, in saying that, I just saw it as a great opportunity to, one, get some more game time, and two, hopefully stake a claim towards the World Cup,” Polota-Nau said.
With his UK return date not yet locked in stone, he doesn't know how many times he will get to wear the blue jersey. That being said, after being named on the bench that week he has timed his run to perfection, landing back in Sydney in the week of the oldest Rugby rivalry in Australia, NSW v Queensland, and at the SCG no less.
“Great rivalry there,” he said. “The way Leicester speak about their rivals is the pretty much the same as how rivals are spoken about around here. Good to see nothing’s changed. Everyone’s striving to get the upper hand on the Reds.”
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