If it didn’t feel like Super Rugby was just around the corner before the weekend started, it sure does now, with a couple of sides getting their warm up campaigns underway on Saturday.
The newly-formed Melbourne Rebels played their first-ever competitive match against a spirited Tongan side in Melbourne – in front of an encouraging crowd of 8 000 fans. It has been suggested that a fair few of those who turned out were actually rooting for the Tongans, but the fact that a brand new team can get that many bums on seats for a warm up game probably bodes pretty well for the future of big rugby union in the region. The game was divided into four 20-minute chukkas, with the home sides chopping and changing personnel regularly throughout. The Tongans – based on a platform of forward dominance – managed a 13-12 half time lead .
That was to be the final score for the visitors, though, as the home side ran rampant in the second half en route to a 43-13 win. The Rebels’ tries were scored by Cooper Vuna, who recorded a hat-trick, along with Afusipa Taumoepeau, JP Du Plessis, Lachlan Mitchell and Peter Betham. Taumei Hikila scored the Tongans’ only try.
Closer to home, the Stormers fielded two weakened sides against the Western Cape’s top Varsity Cup sides, Stellenbosch and UCT on Saturday. The matches, played in incredibly warm conditions in Riebeeck West. The first side to play was held well by Maties – ending the first half 14-19 down, before pulling away in the second half to win 38-19. The second side downed UCT by 52 points to 3, scoring 8 good tries in the process.
Stormers coach Alister Coetzee used the matches as an opportunity to assess some of the younger players on the fringes of his squad and was reportedly very pleased with what he saw.Tweet