Rebels out to stop Reds despite Hardwick frustrations

Sat, Mar 25, 2023, 12:25 AM
AAP & Staff Writer
by AAP & Staff Writer
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Having got the better of Jake Gordon at the NSW Waratahs, Melbourne halfback Ryan Louwrens has set his sights on Queensland's Tate McDermott when the teams square off in Super Rugby Pacific.

The Rebels edged out the Waratahs in round three and are hoping to claim another fellow Aussie scalp at AAMI Park on Saturday.

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Melbourne are coming off a loss to the unbeaten Chiefs in Hamilton while the Reds pipped the Fijian Drua last Sunday but the home side will be missing injured backrower Richard Hardwick, who has been their form forward.

South Africa-born Louwrens said he liked nothing better than shaping up against Wallabies No.9s in the shape of McDermott, Gordon and the Brumbies' Nic White.

"I love it. When we played against the Waratahs, with Jake Gordon, I was making a point of trying to beat my opposite number and this week will be the same," the 32-year-old told AAP.

"Tate McDermott loves to run the ball, he's a running nine, so I want to go out there and make sure I play better than my opposite number. 

"Then I know I've done my part in trying to create the win."

Louwrens lives up to his reputation as a cheeky halfback.

He was in the headlines after round two when he angered Hurricanes and All Blacks ace Ardie Savea, who directed a throat-slitting gesture at the Rebel while walking off after a yellow card.

"Like all nines, you get a bit cheeky when your opposition gets a penalty or a yellow card - you clap your hands and what-not and that's probably what set him off," Louwrens said.

"There was something in my head saying, 'Ardie is coming back and he's going to try and take you out', but luckily he didn't as he's obviously a very physical player.

"He's a good man and he came and apologised after."

In his second stint with the Rebels after a COVID-19-interrupted 2020 season, Louwrens has also spent time playing in Japan, the USA and with the Western Force. He feels Melbourne are playing a more exciting brand of rugby this time around.

"The team's travelling in the right direction - we've got more of an attacking focus and are looking to play fast and fearless rugby," Louwrens said.

"I'm enjoying the way we play, we just need to get a few wins in a row that will really give us confidence, so hopefully it will start this weekend against the Reds."

Meanwhile, the Rebels are seething after losing star backrower Hardwick to a possible season-ending injury caused by the poor surface at their training ground.

The Super Rugby Pacific club already has Wallabies players Rob Leota (Achilles), Matt Philip (knee), Andrew Kellaway (foot) and Reece Hodge (finger) sidelined, with Namibian World Cup hopeful Hardwick suffering a calf tear that is expected to see him out for at least eight weeks.

Rebels boss Baden Stephenson said Hardwick caught his foot in the loose ground on Tuesday.

"It's an eight week-plus injury which is diabolical for him and for the club," Stephenson told AAP.

"He had one foot on the grass and one foot in the dirt and went to take off and the dirt picked up and it looked like he got shot and his calf went.

"We've already got four Wallabies out injured and Hardwick's been our best player through the first four rounds but there are other ramifications, with him hoping to play in the World Cup.

"...It's not acceptable, it's not high performance, and it's disappointing because this injury could have been avoided."

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