The Rebels’ final two regular season matches will be must-win for the Melbourne franchise, but coach Dave Wessels says they won’t be preoccupied by their finals equation in coming weeks.
Their 31-26 defeat to the Waratahs left them four points adrift of the Australian conference leaders, with the top conference side earning automatic finals qualification.
A strong finish could also put them in a top eight wildcard spot, but Wessels said they wouldn’t be figuring out the various permutations in the final fortnight.
“I think the thing is, what's worked for us over the while, I don't think we've said a single word about finals over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“I think we're just trying to play our best rugby and I thought we got very close to that tonight against a very good team and probably unlucky not to win, so we've just got to focus on doing that again next week and I think the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.”
The Rebels were missing a host of capped Test players against the Waratahs, including captain Adam Coleman and halfback Will Genia, and Wessels said he was proud of the way his team was handling those absences.
“What I'm really proud about is if you look at our squad at the start of the season, we didn't have Tetera Faulkner, we didn't have Jordan Uelese, we didn't have Adam Coleman, we didn't have Will Genia, we didn't have Marika Koroibete out there today,” he said.
“We didn't have guys like Dicky (Richard) Hardwick, and we put in a really good performance, and for me that just shows that our squad is growing and our depth is growing and in order to be a championship team in the long run, that's a really, really pleasing thing.”
With away matches against the Reds and Highlanders to come, Wessels said they simply wanted to continue their progress in those final games.
“It hurts to not win. it especially hurts to not win against the Waratahs, but I think our season's very much alive, especially if we keep playing like that, and that's got to be our focus,” he said.
“It's the only thing we can really control, so let's just keep talking about that and doing that.
“I really feel that probably over the last two months, we've got better almost every time we've played and that's the challenge again, go better again next week and if we are lucky enough to make it in the playoffs and get better every week, then who knows what's going to happen?”
Wessels said he was confident Koroibete would be available for next week’s match against the Reds, after the winger was a late withdrawal from Friday’s clash.