The Melbourne Rebels will look to rearrange their travel schedule ahead of their Super Rugby AU play-off against the Queensland Reds on Saturday, feeling their gruelling trip cost them in the last meeting.
Melbourne booked a place in the qualifying final, courtesy of a miracle last-minute try to prop Cabous Eloff and conversion from Matt Toomua against the Western Force.
The kick put them through ahead of the NSW Waratahs on for and against on the ladder.
The Reds are in ominous form, outplaying the Brumbies 26-7 on Saturday night, with the Canberra side already hosting the grand final on September 19.
After a 19-3 thumping in their round seven match at Suncorp Stadium, Rebels coach Dave Wessels said they had learnt from their same-day travel experience.
Based on the NSW Central Coast, the Rebels had a two-hour trip to Sydney airport, plus check-in, travel time and then commute to the Brisbane venue.
“We will change it – last time it was an eight-hour trip up there,” Wessels said.
“Probably if I reflect on the game we got held up (over the line) five times which is a little bit of luck on the Reds’ side but I thought the whole game we lacked the energy we want to be known for.
“I think some of that is down to the travel so we will figure out a better way to try to do that.”
Wessels hoped they could be given a dispensation to stay in Sydney the night before the flight, rather than have to travel from Terrigal.
The Rebels had earnt a tag of chokers after narrowly missing the finals the past two years due to late-season form fades and Wessels admitted he was worried.
“I thought a place in the play-offs was cursed after leading well at halftime and then fell in a big hole so I’m super proud of the guys for fighting out of that,” he said.
“I think it’s a mental hurdle for some of the players that we’ve now got over.”
He said they needed to improve their discipline if they wanted to win the remaining two games to claim the domestic title.
“Yes, we want to enjoy this win but the next focus is on beating the Reds, which we feel confident we can do but we’ve got to play well,” he said.
“We feel like we’ve got a good 160 minutes in us and we can challenge both the Reds and the Brumbies.”
Halfback James Tuttle is their only injury concern after leaving the Force match with a hamstring strain.
– Melissa Woods
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now