Melbourne Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham says he isn’t sure what’s behind the Reds’ Super Rugby form slump ahead of their Saturday night clash.
Scott Higginbotham still has plenty of close friends at the Queensland Reds but he admits he’s puzzled by their dramatic form slump.
Ahead of their Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, the Melbourne Rebels skipper can only surmise there is some internal reason why the Reds have only managed three wins this season after making the finals last year.
Last round, a second half collapse saw them fall 57-29 to the title-hunting Crusaders following heavy losses to the Hurricanes and Blues in New Zealand.
Higginbotham started his rugby career in Queensland and spent five seasons with the Reds before his move to Melbourne.
“It’s hard to tell (why they are struggling) because they’ve got the majority of the same playing squad so it’s obviously something internally going on there,” Higginbotham said.
“It’s tough to go from winning pretty consistently to losing pretty consistently so they’ll be doing it tough.
“But we’re not thinking they’re going to be easy-beats.”
The Rebels have the same number of victories but sit above the Reds.
They also won a pre-season encounter at Ballymore – their sole win against the Queenslanders – when they clawed their way back from 20-0 down.
Higginbotham said their opponents would have some extra incentive to find some form with the squad for the French Test series in June announced next week.
“It’s still a winning side and there’s still a large group of Wallabies in there and with Wallabies selection coming up they will be pretty keen to show off their skills,” he said.
Promising five-eighth Jack Debreczeni is finally in line for a Super debut after overcoming hamstring and knee injuries.
The 20-year-old, who was in the sights of AFL club Essendon last year, has been included on the bench.
Higginbotham said he was excited to see Debreczeni get a chance.
“He’s a fantastic prospect; he’s six foot three and he can kick the ball at least 50 metres on the fly,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do as well.”
In other changes, veteran prop Toby Smith is back in line-up after two games sidelined with a shoulder injury, replacing Cruze Ah-Nau.
“Cruze has been terrific for the last few weeks, but Toby has been in good form there before his injury so he slots back in on the back of that,” said coach Tony McGahan.
Tom Kingston is on the right wing for Male Sau, who along with Shota Horie are away on Japanese Test duty.
Samoa international Steve Fualau replaces Horie as backup hooker.
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Tom Kingston, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Bryce Hegarty, Luke Burgess, Scott Higginbotham (capt), Scott Fuglistaller, Colby Fainga’a, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Laurie Weeks, Pat Leafa, Toby Smith. Res: Steve Fualau, Cruze Ah-Nau, Paul Alo-Emilie, Hugh Pyle, Sean McMahon, Ben Meehan, Jack Debreczeni, Angus Roberts.