Rebels coach Tony McGahan says this weekend’s clash with the Hurricanes is as important as any Australian derby.
The Rebels could overtake the Hurricanes with a win over them this weekend, sitting just three points adrift of their Kiwi rivals.
With the new conference system, Australia teams will be directly competing with New Zealand teams for playoff spots, a move that McGahan said made trans-Tasman wins as critical as derbies.
“Playing the Highlanders, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Blues, Crusaders - those games are like conference games now because they’re competing with us for a finals spot,” he said.
“So it’s important for us to make sure at home we continue to meet expectations and the demands of what the group puts on us.”
Refreshed after a much-needed bye week that ended a brutal opening six weeks, McGahan said he hoped captain Nic Stirzaker would rack up more minutes, after an interrupted start to the year.
“He’s had a limited impact on what we’re doing especially from on-field,” he said.
“Off-field he’s stayed connected, he drives the group and drives himself.
“Those first 30 minutes (against the Waratahs), the side had some good continuity and real understanding of what we were trying to do.”
Stirzaker said he had moved on after his tumultuous start to the year.
“It was definitely frustrating but I haven’t thought about it too much.
“Since I’ve been back I’ve been back.
“Obviously I came off early with the head knock last week but I’m looking forward to this weekend to try and string a few games together.
Stirzaker’s limited form did not impact his Test hopes, with the scrumhalf invited to the Wallabies camp last week - one of 11 Rebels players among the 45 who were part of the gathering.
The Rebels take on the Hurricanes at 7:45pm AEST on Friday LIVE on FOXSPORTS.