Melbourne coach Tony McGahan has laid down the law to his inconsistent Rebels, saying they can't afford a loss to the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby clash on Friday night.
While the Rebels are still in the hunt for the finals, they need to make a statement with a commanding win at home at AAMI Park against a team that trails them on the competition ladder.
"We spoke to the players about the nature of Super rugby; it's not like the AFL or NRL where you can drop a few games and then come back at the end with a flurry," McGahan said.
"The competition's halfway through now, we've only got eight games to come. So to try and catch up two or three games at the back end doesn't exist.
"It is a big game."
The Rebels were humbled by the Hurricanes at AAMI Park last round while the Cheetahs scored 14 tries en route to a 75-point demolition job on Tokyo's Sunwolves.
While surprised by the margin, McGahan said he wasn't surprised the Cheetahs broke through for their second win.
"The Cheetahs have been building nicely with (coach) Franco Smith there and they've got a really clear idea of the way they want to play," said McGahan.
He felt facing the Hurricanes would be good preparation for taking on the Cheetahs, who don't play a traditional South African game, preferring to play with width.
Rebels skipper Nic Stirzaker said his team was wary, with their opponents' confidence high after such a big win.
"They are a side who can put a lot of points on the board and they play a very flamboyant style and we will expect a bit of that," Stirzaker said.
"It shows how dangerous they can be and there are some things you don't want to give them, like loose attacking ball."
Melbourne centre Tamati Ellison is still uncertain for the match with the birth of his fourth child overdue.