Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels is embracing his Super Rugby AU outfit’s road warrior status as they gun for top spot on the ladder on Saturday.
The Rebels were forced to flee Melbourne ahead of the season restart when it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic would make it impossible to play games in the state.
And the nomads have warmed to the task, toppling the previously undefeated Brumbies last weekend to move to clear second and in sight of the club’s first finals berth.
A win at Suncorp Stadium against the Queensland Reds would push them ahead of the Brumbies, who have the bye, on percentage.
But with the Reds and NSW Waratahs just three points behind in equal third, and only three teams progressing to the finals series, the stakes are high with four rounds to play.
Wessels sees his side’s challenge as almost unique, but not a barrier.
“I think only the Crusaders in the history of Super Rugby have had to play a season away,” the coach said.
“Our goal is to win this comp and people thought that was funny when I said that after round one when we were prevented from training and having to move around.
“We were serious about it then and we’re serious about it now; that remains our goal and, if we’re able to do that, very few teams in Super Rugby would have had to overcome the challenges that we’ve had to be successful and that’s our goal.”
Wallabies back Dane Haylett-Petty (knee) will likely return after next week’s bye for the Rebels, while the Reds will welcome Jordan Petaia back into the fold after his father’s sudden death last week.
Petaia was a late scratching to play the NSW Waratahs, with the side’s horror 45-12 loss a blip in an otherwise solid formline since the season’s return.
Wessels said the Reds’ backrow of Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight and Liam Wright could be exploited despite their stellar individual form.
“It gives them some threats in the contact area, but where it takes away from them is in the lineout having a shorter backrow and that’s an area they’re struggling a little bit and we’d like to put some pressure on them around lineout time,” he said.
– Murray Wenzel
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now