Rebels shake off Super Rugby shutdown fears to beat Waratahs

rugby29 March 2024 22:30| © AFP
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kevin Foote @ Getty Images

Melbourne Rebels coach Kevin Foote admitted his players were harbouring "a lot of nerves" about their future, after the cash-strapped Super Rugby team produced a morale-boosting win over the New South Wales Waratahs.

The come-from-behind 27-21 victory in Sydney on Friday was their third from six matches and leaves the Rebels mid-table, defying expectations they would flounder in the face of financial uncertainty.

Rugby Australia placed the Rebels in voluntary administration in January and vowed it would work to see the club through the 2024 season but could give no guarantees beyond that.

Foote said player confidence had been further rocked by heavy losses to the Reds and Hurricanes over the last two weeks.

Rebounding to beat the Waratahs had the Rebels back on track to achieve their goal reaching the knockout stage in a full Super Rugby campaign for the first time.

"There's probably a lot of nerves around the players at the moment... it'd be a surprise if there wasn't nerves," Foote told Stan Sport.

"We've just got to keep backing ourselves and have the confidence to play our rugby. To get a win here is very important.

"We want to become the greatest Rebels team of all time and that's still our goal and we want to stay true to that."

The Rebels' fourth and final try was scored by outside back Filipo Daugunu, a seven-test Wallaby who sat out the two previous games because of a pay dispute.

Foote said he was "quite worried" about how Daugunu's teammates would react when he rejoined them this week following a resolution.

"When Filipo walked into the changing room, guys started clapping for him," he said.

"We all understand that it's not a great situation for him to be in and obviously it's all been sorted now and he can do what he loves to do, and play good rugby and be selected for the Wallabies."

The Waratahs led for much of the match before conceding three tries in the final quarter, handing them a fourth successive narrow loss.

Captain Jake Gordon demanded improved resilience against in-form Brumbies next week.

"It's getting a bit repetitive now. There's something not working, especially when the heat's on us. It's disappointing," Gordon said.