Rebels desperate to crack Reds to lock in Super finals

Melissa Woods |

Beat the Reds and Melbourne put themselves in good stead for the Super finals, Josh Canham (r) says.
Beat the Reds and Melbourne put themselves in good stead for the Super finals, Josh Canham (r) says.

While Melbourne’s future remains in doubt off the field, the Rebels are desperate to snap their losing streak to ensure they play Super Rugby Pacific finals for the first time.

The Rebels have lost their last two matches, and on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium will face a fired-up Queensland who have been buoyed by a rare victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch last round.

Melbourne are sitting in sixth place, one behind the Reds, but have a torrid run home against the Chiefs (4th), Brumbies (3rd) and an always-challenging away clash with Fiji (8th).

They have lost to the Reds in seven of their past eight meetings but did secure a six-point victory last year in Melbourne.

Young Rebels lock Josh Canham said his team would approach Queensland with confidence after a strong showing against the highly rated Blues last time out until a late blow-out.

“Right now we’re taking it one game at a time, so all our focus now is on the Reds and winning this game – if we do that we’re in good stead for finals,” Canham said.

The lineout has been a weapon for both teams, with Reds co-captain Liam Wright taking the most in the competition, followed by Canham.

“They’re pretty skilful, they’re good over the ball and they’ve got a good lineout,” Canham said.

“If we put their lineout under pressure this week and get our contact areas right it should be a good game for us.”

Canham had the best game of his career against the Blues and credited former Red Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for setting the standard at the Rebels this season.

Taniela Tupou, Alex Mafi and Sam Talakai have all joined Salakaia-Loto in shifting from Queensland to the Rebels.

Salakaia-Loto, a strong chance for a Wallabies recall, will miss the match following foot surgery.

“He leads by example while he’s playing and doesn’t take a backward step,” 23-year-old Canham said.

“He’s still giving us input since he’s been injured and we listen to him where we can.

“Missing him has given me a chance to get more involved … to try and fill his shoes.”

The decision from Rugby Australia on the future of the debt-ridden Rebels continues to drag on but Melbourne product Canham hoped the club could continue beyond this season, to give other Victorian players a team to aspire to play for.

He said current Rebels including skipper Rob Leota and hooker Jordan Uelese had made an impact as he was growing up and playing local rugby.

“They set the standard for me for me coming through,” he said. 

“For boys coming through now, they won’t have that if there’s no Rebels next year.

“Hopefully it can be sorted out because there’s a lot of talent coming through in Melbourne.”