Coming off a bye, the Rebels (5-4) face a difficult assignment against a Hurricanes team which is second only to the Crusaders in the overall standings and hitting its straps, inspired by brothers Beauden and Jordie Barrett.
But they were helped when the Waratahs (4-5) lost lock Jed Holloway to a red card early in the second half and then fell 23-15 at home on Saturday night to an aggressive and disciplined Sharks outfit.
The Brumbies (4-6) produced an error-strewn second half as they lost 20-15 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
The Queensland Reds (4-5), who also had a bye, are last in the Australian conference but just six points behind the Rebels with seven rounds remaining.
They also have arguably the easiest assignment this week, at home to Japan’s Sunwolves (2-8), who are coming off a 52-0 belting by the Highlanders.
The Waratahs’ woes have been compounded by the loss of key forwards Jack Dempsey (back) and Tolu Latu (calf) plus prop Rory O’Connor (ribs) as they tackle a two-match tour of South Africa to play the Bulls and Lions.
Holloway will also likely face a stint on the sidelines for elbowing Thomas du Toit after being held back off the ball by his jersey.
“When you travel from Canberra to Sydney to Johannesburg to Cape Town then back to Jo’burg to Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires, it’s taxing, and to come away with five points from this trip is a real positive for this group,” McKellar said.
“Errors at critical times hurt us and we didn’t take the opportunities we were presented with, but it was a very brave effort.
“We’ve got to take the opportunities, without a doubt, but the effort was outstanding.”
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.