Canes set to test Rebels in Super Rugby

The progress made by paces-etting Melbourne Rebels is about to get its biggest test yet when they become the first Australian side to face New Zealand opposition this year.

Kiwi teams have won the past 31 trans-Tasman Super Rugby clashes including a 26-0 sweep last year, while it's been 22 months since a New Zealand provincial side lost a trans-Tasman battle.

The 2018 draw has kept Australian and New Zealand teams apart through the first six weeks, but that will end next Saturday when Melbourne host the Hurricanes at AAMI Park.

There will be no trans-Tasman fixtures the following week, but there will be at least one for each of the last 11 rounds leading into the playoffs.

The Rebels bounced back from their 51-27 away loss to the Waratahs with a 46-15 home win over the Sharks, scoring six tries to two on Saturday night.

It was their fourth-bonus point win from five games and they hold a seven-point lead over second-placed Australian team, the Queensland Reds.

The Reds picked up a bonus point after losing 25-19 to the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Brumbies and Waratahs, who meet in Canberra next week, each had a bye.

Melbourne aren't getting caught up in dwelling on the recent atrocious record of Australian sides in trans-Tasman clashes, but acknowledge they will have a mighty scrap on their hands against the Hurricanes.

The North Island team are second in the New Zealand conference, one point behind defending champion the Crusaders with a game in hand.

The Canes claimed the scalp of the only previously unbeaten team this season, defeating the Highlanders 29-12 in Wellington.

"It'll be a great challenge," Rebels captain and lock Adam Coleman said of Saturday's game.

"We haven't looked too much into it being a Kiwi team."

The Reds rallied from 18-0 down against the Stormers, matching the three-try tally of the home team in prop James Slipper's 100th game for Queensland.

"It's just really a great effort," Reds coach Brad Thorn said after his travel-weary team got to South Africa from Argentina via a detour to London.

"When you're 18-0 down, they can easily blow out, the guys just kept on competing."

Reds prop Taniela Tupou was cited for alleged foul play after he appeared to make a tackle without using his arms.

Elsewhere, the Crusaders ended a two-game losing skid with a 33-14 home win over the Bulls in Christchurch and playmaker Damian McKenzie starred in the Chiefs' nine-try 61-10 rout of the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

The Lions still lead the South African conference despite losing 49-35 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

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