Interim coach Kevin Foote has been given the nod as permanent coach of the Melbourne Rebels, while former Wallaby Nick Stiles joins the club in a new role.
They haven’t beaten Queensland this year but that hasn’t stopped Melbourne for feeling like they’ve got the measure of the Reds ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby AU qualifying final at Suncorp Stadium.
The teams played out an 18-18 draw in round two while the Rebels lost their last clash 19-3 despite hammering the opposition line for 30 minutes to start the second half for no reward.
But Rebels skipper Dane Haylett-Petty said his team fancied their chances of booking a grand-final berth against the Brumbies on Sept 19 in Canberra.
“I think we enjoy playing the Reds … they’re obviously playing some pretty good rugby but in recent history we’ve won more than we’ve lost,” said the Wallabies fullback who has been managing a knee injury.
“There’s some technical things that we need to do better but we know at our best we’re good enough to beat them.
“We feel we haven’t quite fired and we’re just one game away from really clicking.”
They got into the final by the skin of their teeth, with a last-minute converted try against the Western Force last round securing safe passage over the NSW Waratahs.
Haylett-Petty said the team could take confidence from their resilience under huge pressure, while pointing out that Queensland’s last game was a dead-rubber win over the Brumbies.
They also outnumber the Reds in Test caps, with the likes of Matt Toomua, Reece Hodge, Isi Naisarani, Jordan Uelese and Marika Koroibete providing big-match experience in the Melbourne line-up.
“It sets us up well because we’ve had to play a do-or-die game already while the Reds haven’t,” he said.
“We feel like we can play free – the Reds are obviously the favourites playing at home but we’ve got nothing to lose.”
With Victoria enduring months in lockdown the Rebels have been on the road since the start of July, but Haylett-Petty said they were still feeling the love.
“We’re really conscious that our fans are doing it tough in lockdown and it’s definitely been one of the things we’ve been wanting to play for,” he said.
“We’re just trying to do them proud.”
Meanwhile, the Rebels are still exploring staying in a Sydney hotel the night before the game to cut down the match-day travel time from their NSW Central Coast base.