DURBAN – The Rebels have been the talk of the town in Super Rugby this season after they came rushing out of the starting blocks to wallop the Reds, Sunwolves and Brumbies to top the Australian Conference.
Few would have predicted that the Rebels would score bonus points in their first three games, although the Melbourne-based outfit would have been given a reality check when the Waratahs thumped them 51-27 in Sydney over the weekend.
Which brings them to hosting the Sharks on Friday, and coach David Wessels will certainly have chastised his players after shipping 50 points in Sydney.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, they keep running into teams desperate to prove themselves after a heavy defeat. It was the case last week when a frantic Brumbies side undid their horrible start to the season with a win over the Durbanites in Canberra.
Let’s hang on a minute... did we say coach David Wessels?
Of course, he is a South African and he forged a good reputation in five years as coach of the Force, now infamously defunct after Super Rugby was restructured, and the Rebels were clever in nabbing him as their head coach.
Capetonians will remember Wessels as assistant coach who was part of the management team that broke a 37-year trophy drought at the University of Cape Town in 2011, after two seasons at the Ikeys.
A product of St Stithians in Johannesburg, Wessels has coached as much as he has studied and has a Bachelor of Business Science degree and a Masters in IT.
Our David is certainly no fool, and in Australia he is clearly highly rated as a coach, and to top is off he’s only 36 years old.
When the Force were unceremoniously ousted last year, and Wessels lured from Perth to Melbourne, he brought with him a number of Force players, most notably Wallabies lock Adam Coleman, who brings serious grunt to the tight five.
But the coach has also targeted the other Australian franchises and his big signing was highly-experienced Reds and Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia, who has been running the show for the Rebels this season.
The shrinking of the Australian Super Rugby challenge to four teams has certainly benefited the Rebels, who had to fight for their lives against the Force to stay in the competition.
The Rebels have also gained powerful speedster Marika Koroibete, who burst into the Wallabies team in June last year and by November, the wing was being branded as a future Wallaby great.
Also look out for Amanaki Mafi, the robust No 8 who is Tongan, but has qualified to play for Japan.
In short, the Sharks are up against a quality, well-coached team who will be furious about their defeat to the Waratahs, and will want to make amends in front of their home crowd.
The Sharks will not be underestimating the Rebels. No chance of that, and if they are not in the mood to fight fire with fire, they are not going to win.