THE Melbourne Rebels depart for South Africa on Monday and captain Nic Stirzaker says it will be a welcome relief to get away from frenzied speculation surrounding the club’s Super Rugby future.
And Stirzaker said the team’s two-game trip suddenly seems less daunting after Saturday night’s morale-boosting win over ACT at AAMI Park.
The sorry Super Rugby saga that will see either the Rebels or Western Force chopped at season’s end inexplicably continues to drag on.
Rebels owner Andrew Cox insists the Australian Rugby Union has no legal right to cull his franchise, but the fact remains that until the ARU takes his club’s head of the chopping block its players may return from South Africa to a business that has only weeks to live.
Had the Rebels not snatched a late victory against the Australian Conference-leading Brumbies on Saturday night its season would have been shot with nine games to play.
But if Melbourne can finally nab a maiden win on South African soil against either the Sharks on Sunday or Kings next week then its faint finals hopes may burn a little brighter.
In a further boost for Tony McGahan’s men, Wallaby prop Toby Smith will travel and is every chance to return from a serious hamstring injury for his first game of the season.
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But fellow international forward Lopeti Timani faces possible suspension having been cited for kicking out at the head of Brumby Rory Arnold.
“In sport confidence is everything,” Stirzaker said.
“And when you’re 0-5 that confidence has been banged up for sure.
“So taking the win (against the Brumbies) and a bit of confidence that we’re doing the right thing will be really good for us to get on tour.
“We can get away from some of this stuff going on in Australia, get tight as a group and try and push forward.”
It was an aggressive Rebels line-up that met the Brumbies head on.
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It lead to several skirmishes and Stirzaker said the uncertainty around the club’s future coupled with its horror start to the season may have boiled over.
“There was definitely plenty to play for us, so there was a bit of that,” he said, although adding that forward pack aggression had long been a part of its game.
Playing on the edge led to Timani, Colby Fainga’a, Fereti Sa’aga all being sin binned.
McGahan said there has to be a balance between well-channelled aggression and being penalised or yellow carded.
Originally published as Rebels escape on African safari
SOURCE: newsnow sport