South African wants Rebels job
Kevin Foote has faced some huge challenges in his time as interim Melbourne Rebels coach – but the biggest looms on Saturday against the Crusaders.
A former assistant at the Rebels, Foote took over for the five-week Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition when coach Dave Wessels quit after they missed the Super Rugby AU play-offs.
The Rebels haven’t won a game since and, with the likes of skipper Matt Toomua, Stacy Ili and Lachie Anderson missing from their backline, face a massive task against the New Zealand champions at Leichhardt Oval.
But they have improved through the competition in the face of testing times, with the team forced out of Melbourne for the past three weeks due to the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, which comes after 21 weeks away last year.
It’s the second home game they’ve had to relocate from Melbourne to Sydney, with the team not playing in Melbourne since mid-May.
Rugby Australia Director of Rugby Scott Johnson and the Rebels board will meet later this month to discuss the full-time appointment of a head coach -, as well as attack coach, with Shaun Berne departing at the same time as Wessels.
Rebels Chief Executive Baden Stephenson said Foote had done an impressive job in keeping the team together through such a challenging time.
Stephenson felt that, while the circumstances hadn’t allowed Foote to put his stamp on the game plan, the Rebels have shown some growth.
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“It’s been a big challenge but I’m particularly proud how he’s stood up in this tough time,” Stephenson told AAP.
“He’s been trying to impress and he’s under-resourced but he’s driving the energy and the culture and I’ve seen a big shift in driving accountability in the team.
“I’ve personally seen some shifts in the organisation over the past five-week and hopefully people have seen a shift in the way we’re trying to play.”
Stephenson said the players and staff were “desperate” to get home, feeling the cumulative effect of so much time away over the past year.
“This last bit of time on the road has been particularly tough on the players and staff – I don’t think anyone realises the physical, mental and emotional toll that it’s had on our team,” Stephenson said.
“I know they’re desperately keen to get home.”
Stephenson said it was a blow not to host Saturday’s game in Melbourne against the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions, who are hugely popular in Australia.
“Our commercial team said our ticket sales 15 or 20 days out from the game were the highest they’d been for three years,” he said.
“They’re a marquee team that everyone wants to come and watch so we’re really disappointed that the rugby community and the sporting public didn’t get the opportunity to see them.”