They were once maligned misfits but now the Melbourne Rebels plan on being the pride of Australian rugby.
Flying high after ending the Brumbies’ unbeaten start in Super Rugby AU, the Rebels now have their sights on walking away with the trophy.
“We’ve got three games left before finals footy and we really want to win this thing,” said the Rebels’ Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese ahead of Saturday night’s pivotal clash with the Queensland Reds.
Victory in Brisbane would vault the Rebels to the top of the table – barely a month after coach Dave Wessels’ position was called in to question following a first-round loss to the Brumbies.
The Rebels know they can also seriously dent the Reds’ own hopes of making the three-team finals after Brad Thorn’s side slumped to fourth place with last week’s record-breaking 45-12 loss to the NSW Waratahs.
“This game is really important,” Uelese said.
“If you want to win this, there’s very fine margins in this competition. Derby games are double whammys – you win four points and take away four points from them.”
Homeless due to Melbourne’s coronavirus crisis, the Rebels are galvanised by the added adversity.
“With everything going on back in Victoria, it gives us that extra bit of carrot to play harder and make our state proud,” Uelese said.
“It really does boost the morale being on the road for eight weeks now but knowing that everyone in Victoria is doing it tough, if we can bring them 80 minutes of joy each weekend, then that’s something we’ll strive to do.
“Everyone loves a winning side, so the amount of support we’ve had from friends, family and fellow club people we used to play with back in Victoria, and also our members – it’s been immense.
“We’re really feeling the love.”
But the Reds know this could be their last throw of the dice and say they won’t go down without a fight, unlike last week’s first-half capitulation against the Waratahs when they trailed 38-0 at the break.
“We’re disappointed after that game last week, but we have to forget about that and focus on the Rebels,” Reds prop Taniela Tupou said.
“It hurts us.”
– Darren Walton
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