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Rebels

Super RugbyTwenty-three newly contracted Australian rugby players have gathered in Sydney for the 12 annual RUPA Induction Camp at St Andrew’s College.

In attendance are players across all five Australian Super Rugby teams and the National Sevens who have been offered their first full time or Extended Playing Squad (EPS) contract for 2015.

Last year the Camp involved players including Will Skelton, Alofa Alofa, Jack Debreczeni, Curtis Browning, Samu Kerevi and Adam Coleman.

In 2014, the camp includes five players from the Brumbies, four from the Waratahs, Rebels and Force, three from the Reds and, for the first time, three members of the women’s National Sevens squad.

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Melbourne RebelsWestern Force captain Matt Hodgson has been awarded the 2014 Nathan Sharpe Medal at the HBF Stadium in Perth yesterday.

This is the third time Hodgson has claimed the premier award, having previously received the club’s Player of the Year Award (now Nathan Sharpe Medal) in 2009 and 2010.

In the night’s other awards, crowd favourite Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins was voted the Members’ MVP; lock Adam Coleman took out the Rising Star; and Ben McCalman and Sam Wykes were joint winners of the newly named Geoffrey Stooke Award (formerly the Force Man Award).

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Tom Kingston

Tom Kingston

Bryce Hegarty

Bryce Hegarty

Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham

Melbourne Rebels outside back Tom Kingston has been ruled out of his team’s final regular Super Rugby season match against the Bulls in Pretoria afetr succumbing to an ongoing chronic knee injury.

Kingston, who has flown home from South Africa and has been battling Patella Tendinopathy throughout the duration of the season, started on the wing against the Lions on the weekend however will now head back to Melbourne to undergo further assessment before the Club are able to decide what course of action to take to repair his knee.

Young flyhalf Bryce Hegarty remains in South Africa undergoing further assessment to a shoulder injury sustained against the Lions, and remains in doubt for the season-ending clash against the Bulls.

Scott Higginbotham meanwhile was suspended for a week after receiving his 3rd Yellow Card of the season.

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Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham of the Rebels is to appear before a SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer after receiving a third yellow card in the 2014 season during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

According to the SANZAR Judicial Rules:

A player who has received three yellow cards (whether on or off field, or any combination thereof) arising from matches in the same Super Rugby competition shall be required to appear before the Duty Judicial Officer appointed for the match during which he last offended.

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Hugh Pyle

Hugh Pyle

Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made four changes to the starting line-up from last weekend’s 36-20 loss to the Reds, as the Rebels look for the first win on foreign soil against the Lions in Johannesburg this weekend.

Foundation Rebel Hugh Pyle returns to the starting lineup as one of three changes to the forward pack, with the recently re-signed Shota Horie and Scott Fuglistaller also injected into the contest from the outset.

In the backs, Tom Kingston comes in to the wing, while young fullback Jack Debreczeni and flyhalf Bryce Hegarty will share the initial place kicking duties with Jason Woodward on the bench.

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Shota Horie

Shota Horie

Japanese hooker Shota Horie has signed a new one-year deal with Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels that will take him through to the Rugby World Cup next year, the club said on Wednesday.

Horie, the first Japanese player to play Super Rugby in Australia, has made 17 appearances for the team and scored his first try in April.

The 28-year-old, aiming to play his second Rugby World Cup in England in 2015, said he was happy to remain in Melbourne after welcoming baby Yoshino to his family a month ago.

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Melbourne RebelsThe Rebels have departed for South Africa, home for the final two weeks of their 2014 Super Rugby campaign.

Clashes against the Lions in Johannesburg, and the Bulls in Pretoria, will bring the curtain down on the Rebels season.

The Rebels have never won in South Africa, coming agonisingly close in bonus point defeats to the Lions and Stormers in 2012, and are determined to finish the season on a high following three consecutive disappointing defeats.

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Franco van der Merwe

Franco van der Merwe

LionsSpringbok lock forward Franco van der Merwe has recovered fully from the ankle injury that forced him to miss much of the Lions’ Super Rugby campaign, and has been drafted straight in to the starting side by head coach Johan Ackermann for Friday nights clash against the Rebels at Ellis Park.

The big Springbok’s inclusion will add some most welcome steel to the Lions second row for the clash against the team currently 1 place below the home side on the combined log.

In is a game the Johannesburg based outfit will be desperate to win before faceing the Cheetahs in their final round robin game which may well decide the Wooden Spoonists of the SA conference, Ackermann will be hoping for a dispaly at least as intense as that which saw the Lions to victory over Gauteng neighbours the Bulls just ove a month ago.

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WaratahsBrumbiesWestern ForceRedsMelbourne RebelsThe Waratahs are top of the table, three points clear of the Sharks, with guaranteed Super Rugby Finals Series qualification which sees them placed as Australia’s best hope.

The Brumbies and the Force are not out of it yet.

A win to the two-time champions against the Western Australians in Canberra will give them 44-45 points, right on the threshold of what might be the lowest mark to reach the top six.

Meanwhile the Reds and Rebels play for pride.

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Melbourne RebelsRebels head coach Tony McGahan has named exciting youngster Sean McMahon in the starting line-up and Jack Debreczeni for his run-on debut as Super Rugby returns to AAMI Park for the final time in 2014 as the Rebels host the Reds on Friday night.

Debreczeni, who has played in the Rebels previous two matches as a replacement, recently re-signed with the club and is part of a backline shuffle that also sees flyer Jason Woodward move to the right wing.

McGahan was excited to unleash the youngster from the first minute against the Reds.

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Luke Burgess

Luke Burgess

Melbourne RebelsThe return of Super Rugby down-under is timeous for the Rebels with the return of Wallaby Luke Burgess and Nic Stirzaker from injury.

Burgess, who was called up to the Wallabies camp for the French series, hobbled from the field last time the Melbourne boys played the Reds, but only after scoring two tries.

Another scrumhalf, Stirzaker, who has sustained two injuries to the same ankle in 2014, can officially wipe his name from the injury list, and will join Burgess in contention for selection this week.

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Cam Crawford

Cam Crawford

In the wake of acquiring Mike Harris and Jonah Placid, the Rebels’ recruiting drive has secured another key talent with Cam Crawford signing for the next two Super Rugby seasons.

The 25-year-old had to make it to Super Rugby the hard way, with a number of injuries preventing him from making a long-awaited debut until the 2012 season.

Playing for the Brumbies, Crawford featured in one Super Rugby game and also against the touring Welsh.

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Hurricanes

Jason Woodward

Jason Woodward

Jason Woodward will leave the Rebels at season’s end after agreeing terms on a two-year deal to return home and represent the Hurricanes.

Woodward will return to New Zealand, where he will attempt to fulfil his childhood ambition and represent his country as an All Black.

Woodward said although he would be leaving Melbourne with a heavy heart, returning home to be part of the Hurricanes club was an offer he couldn’t turn down.

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Pat Leafa

Pat Leafa

Rebels Hooker Pat Leafa has committed his future to the club, signing a deal which will see him remain in Melbourne until the end of the 2016 season.

Leafa was born in Auckland, however will qualify to represent Australia if selected as of January 2015. The popular hooker joined the Rebels from the Brumbies’ Academy and the Canberra club competition as a member of the Extended Playing Squad (EPS) in 2012, managing two appearances as he patiently waited behind Ged Robinson and Shota Horie in the pecking order.

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Super RugbyCheetahsStormersCell C SharksSaturday’s three Vodacom Super Rugby matches involving the Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs ended in a whitewash for the South African teams as they all recorded good victories.

The Cell C Sharks consolidated their spot at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby log with a superb 30-25 victory over the in-form Crusaders in Christchurch – the first defeat for the team from Canterbury in New Zealand since 2001 against South African opposition and also the maiden victory for a team from the Republic in the Land of the Long White Cloud this season.

The Durbanites became the first South African team to ever in Christchurch since the franchise system was put in place in 1998.

It was only the second time a SA team managed to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch, when Northern Transvaal won there in 1996, and the third time out of 46 matches that the seven-time Vodacom Super Rugby champions lost at home to a team from the Republic – the Cats beat the Crusaders in Nelson in 2001.

The Crusaders also drew twice at home to teams from South Africa in the early years of Super 12, in 1996 against Western Province and in 1997 against the Sharks.

Later on Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers won their third successive home game of 2014 when they easily beat the high-flying Force by 24-8 in Cape Town, outscoring their visitors by three tries to one – ironically the same try count as in the Sharks/Crusaders match.

Saturday ended in ecstasy for the Toyota Cheetahs as they managed to beat the Brumbies for the first time since 2011 when they won this replay of their 2013 qualifier by 27-21, thanks mainly to a very good second half performance.

On Sunday morning, the Lions started very well against the Waratahs in Sydney, but the home team had too much left in the second half and eventually won this match by 41-13.

The Vodacom Bulls, currently second in the South African Conference behind the Cell C Sharks, had a bye this weekend.

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Luke BurgessThe Melbourne Rebels face a crisis at scrumhalf as Luke Burgess has been ruled out for up to two months of Super Rugby with a knee injury.

Burgess was hoping to play against his former team the Waratahs this weekend but he injured his knee in the Club’s victory over the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.

The injury is a blow to the side, who are already without the services of fellow scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker, leaving rookie Ben Meehan and experienced injury replacement Josh Holmes to battle for the nine jersey against the Waratahs.

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James HorwillQueensland Reds captain James Horwill has criticised the growing influence of television officials on the game after a controversial decision ensured his side lost their sixth successive Super Rugby match on Saturday.

Reds forward Ed O’Donoghue was sent off for eye gouging in the last minute of his side’s 30-27 loss to the Melbourne Rebels, but only after television official Steve Lescinski told referee Steve Walsh to review the incident after play had moved downfield.

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Toby SmithMelbourne RebelsThe inclusion of two-time Super Rugby winning prop Toby Smith headlines the changes to the Rebels side which heads to Brisbane on Saturday to take on 2011 champions, the Reds.

Smith has missed the past two weeks with a shoulder injury. However, he has recovered to replace Cruze Ah-Nau in the starting line-up and will to go head to head with an experienced Reds front row group – which includes four Wallabies and a former Rebel in Jono Owen.

Ah-Nau drops to the replacement bench after impressing in his first two career starts.

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Josh HolmesMelbourne RebelsThe Rebels have signed experienced scrumhalf Josh Holmes as an injury replacement for Nic Stirzaker, who suffered his second ankle injury of the season during the club’s 22-16 defeat to the Sharks in Round 12.

Holmes, the younger brother of foundation Rebel Luke, has no shortage of Super Rugby experience and brings with him a strong passing and running game.

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Special EditionWaratahsRedsMelbourne RebelsWestern ForceBrumbiesThis article is the 2nd of the series and continues the 3-part series analysing the fortunes so far and what could happen in the future with but several rounds of 2014 Super Rugby remaining.

It is time to look at the rising Australian Conference.

SUMMARY: With 3 teams in the top 6, Wallabies supporters have plenty of reasons to feel confident, the Brumbies and Waratahs are looking like contenders while the Force are arguably the fairy-tale of the campaign.

The Rebels have shown plenty of starch, even if there are few worried brows in Queensland of late.

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Melbourne RebelsNic Stirzaker’s injury sees Luke Burgess retain the No 9 jersey for the Rebels clash with the Hurricanes while Ben Meehan takes the spot on the bench.

Ben Meehan returns to the matchday 23 for the first time since Round Six in one of two changes made by Head Coach Tony McGahan.

Pat Leafa, who scored his first try for the Club in the 16-22 defeat to the Sharks last Friday, replaces Shota Horie in the starting lineup.

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Melbourne RebelsCell C SharksRebels lock Hugh Pyle says his side must muscle-up and top the Sharks’ physicality if they are to emerge victorious when they meet in Melbourne on Friday.

The Sharks are recognised for having one of the most physical forward packs in Super Rugby, and Pyle knows that the Rebels need to bring the physicality when they take on the combined conference leaders.

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Cadeyrn NevilleMelbourne RebelsRebels coach Tony McGahan made just one change to the side for their all-Australian Super Rugby derby against the Western Force on Friday.

In a show of faith in his matchday 23 that lost to the Chiefs last week the only change sees second row forward Cadeyrn Neville replace Hugh Pyle in the starting line-up, with the Foundation Rebel dropping to the bench.

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