Rebels lock Matt Philip is bracing for a “hissing” Waratahs outfit in their pivotal conference clash on Saturday night.
The Rebels sit on top of the Australian conference, seven points clear of NSW, but a loss to the Waratahs could make that gap as narrow as three points after round 10.
Philip said he expected the loss of Israel Folau, whose Australian rugby career is still up in the air after he was issued a Code of Conduct breach notice on Monday, to be a uniting force for their opponents.
“I think obviously he does bring some very good attributes to their game with the high ball and stuff like that but with everything going on, it's really going to galvanise the team and they're going to be better for it this week,” he said.
“They're going to come out hissing.”
Philip said they had learned a lot from their defeats to NSW last season, particularly their Allianz Stadium clash in which Melbourne surrendered a 17-point lead to lose 51-27.
“Last year, we had that really hot day - we were up, then kind of got gassed towards the back end of the second half and they just ran away with it,” he said.
“We've just got to stick to the way we play for the whole 80 minutes. We've done a lot of work on our fitness and conditioning over the off-season.
“I think we've shown that during this season so far so I think that'll put us in good stead.”
The second rower watched on as the Melbourne side were unravelled by the Stormers at AAMI Park, coughing up the chance to cement their Australian conference lead.
Philip said while there were suggestions the Rebels didn’t adapt to the Stormers’ defence, the issues in that loss were more about Melbourne moving away from their strengths.
“There was a lot of chat from outside that we can only play one style of footy. I don't think that's true - we just didn't play our style of footy at all,” he said.
“I can't really tell you how we want to play but from a review point of view, we didn't play like we've been playing throughout the rest of the season so we'll look to change that this weekend like I've said, go back to how we like to play and I think if we do that, it should be a pretty good result for us.”
Philip is raring to go for round 10 after missing the Stormers loss with a heel injury, admitting spectating was not something he enjoyed.
“That's actually the first game I've missed since I've been here for the Rebels,” he said.
“It was a new experience for me and I definitely didn't enjoy it - sitting on the edge of my seat a bit there, sitting next to Dane (Haylett-Petty) and Anaru (Rangi) there, watching from the sidelines, it's pretty tough to do.
“I'm just thankful that I get to be on the field again this week and try and put a good performance out there.”
Philip was optimistic that Anaru Rangi and Jack Maddocks would also return to the team for Saturday’s outing.
The Rebels take on the Waratahs on Saturday April 20 at the SCG, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.