Rebels stand-in skipper Reece Hodge says the side isn’t blaming a mountainous injury toll for its 2017 woes, after a 47-10 loss to the Lions.
Stand-in skipper Hodge is the fourth the team has had this season, with Sean McMahon the official captain still yet to play a game, Nic Stirzaker injured and Colby Faingaa a late withdrawal on Saturday.
While Faingaa is expected to be fit for their clash with the Reds next weekend, the flanker’s absence took their unavailable list to 17, with 16 injuries and Lopeti Timani with one more week of suspension yet to serve.
That mounting toll would be no excuse, Hodge said, despite the lack of experience clearly taking its toll on the team.
“We've got full faith in the guys that do come in,” he said.
“They're in this squad for a reason, they're at Super a Rugby level for a reason, so everyone deserves to make it to this point.
“If I look beside me, all the 14 guys beside me on the field, I've got full confidence in every one of them. I don't think we can read too much into injuries, it's just we need to be better individually and as a team.”
The probable return of McMahon and Faingaa next week will bring some timely relief for Amanaki Mafi, the only Rebels backrower to take the field regularly this season, though even he has missed a game with injury.
Coach Tony McGahan said the ‘one-man band’ of Mafi would need some back-up, though the performances of ring-ins Hugh Sinclair and Will Miller from the Shute Shield have been impressive.
“If you had said to us at the start of the season that we'd have no Sean McMahon, no Colby, no Jordy (Reid), no Lopeti out here, he's probably been a one man band.
“He's been really carrying the back row, he's been fantastic.
“We're really looking forward to getting some of those others back to give him some support in the breakdown and defence because he's been a bit of a one man band there.”
McGahan praised his side’s effort in the loss but was blunt about the gap between them and the top South African side.
“We tried really hard, just not good enough. It’s pretty simple,” he said.
“There were three things we spoke about - we just really wanted to have a really high pressure game and just really compete in everything, we needed to make sure we were physical and the last one was really enjoy what we were doing and enjoy working.
“I think those three things we displayed, it was the skill element (where) we just weren't good enough tonight across pretty much every area.”
The Rebels take on the Reds in Melbourne next Saturday night, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.