Rebels don't want to let finals slip away

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels have let their finals chance go begging in the past two weeks and centre Reece Hodge says they want to take control of their destiny in Dunedin.

Melbourne needed just one win from the past two matches to secure a maiden finals berth but fell short against both the Waratahs and Reds.

The Rebels are currently eighth in the standings and a win would secure them that final playoffs spot, but if they lose to the Highlanders they will be relying on the Jaguares to beat the Sharks to keep a grasp on that position.

Hodge said the missed opportunities in the past fortnight had left the Rebels ‘frustrated’ but they couldn’t dwell on those.

“I think it's very frustrating,” he said.

“We can't shy away from the fact we haven't won the last two games when we really wanted to and put ourselves in such a great position for finals.

“Obviously it is disappointing but in reality we're still in eighth place and if we win this week, we're in the finals.

“We've got a massive game ahead of us against the Highlanders who'll be wanting to bounce back from the last couple of weeks and they're going to provide a massive test for us at home in Dunedin.”

As for how they can turn their losing run around in such a hostile environment, Hodge said they needed to set the tone from their forwards down.

“I think just go back to what works for us and for us, that's not playing with numbers on our backs, i think from 1-15 and 1-23 we've got size and physicality in our team that really gets us going forward of the ball and our attacking game,” he said.

“I think against the Reds we were probably a bit guilty of trying to push the ball and go wide before we went through them, probably let us down a little bit throughout the middle parts of the game especially.

“From an attacking perspective, we need to really go through them as much as we can and defensively I think it's been quite good for us the last couple of weeks.”

Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty appear unlikely to play in the clash due to injury, but the return of Will Genia will be a major boost for the Rebels.

The absence of Coleman and Genia for much of this season, though, has given the next generation of leaders to shine, Hodge said.

“I think there's been a few guys in the group in particular, probably people who aren't necessarily leaders within the group on the field that have really brought some great energy throughout the start of the week,” he said.

“I think we're guys that just love playing rugby and being with our mates at the end of the day, so the more energy, the more laughs we can have together and the more fun we have, I think the better the training performances and then hopefully the playing performance is.

“It's been a great week so far and can't wait to get over to New Zealand.”

The Rebels take on the Highlanders on Saturday July 14, kicking off at 3:15pm AEST, 5:15pm local, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.