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Wed 2 Sep 2020 | 10:52

Can the Force make the Rebels choke again?

Can the Force make the Rebels choke again?
Wed 2 Sep 2020 | 10:52
Can the Force make the Rebels choke again?
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The Melbourne Rebels have made a habit of ‘chocking’ in Super Rugby in recent years.

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When they face the Western Force in the final round of Super Rugby AU league action on Saturday, they run the danger of ‘falling short’ once again.

Last year, after Round 15, the Rebels were sitting pretty in fifth place on 33 points. Three weeks later they were out of the race – finishing with just 34 points, just two short of the eight-placed Highlanders.

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In the last three matches they managed just one losing bonus point.

In 2018 it was a similar story. After 15 Rounds they were in the top eight with 30 points. Three weeks later they were knocked out – finishing on 36 points, losing out to the eight-placed Sharks on a points differential of 16.

One more bonus point would have seen them through.

The Force, kicked out of Super Rugby when the Rebels were given preferential treatment in 2017, can exact a good measure of revenge on Saturday.

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The Force have their last hurrah against Melbourne in Newcastle on Saturday and can spoil the Rebels’ finals hopes with a final-round victory.

Veteran back row forward Brynard Stander said they weren’t motivated by wrecking the Rebels’ season, despite their history with Melbourne surviving a Super Rugby cull in 2017 at the Force’s expense.

Stander, who will earn his 50th Force cap at McDonald Jones stadium, says it’s their last chance to earn a win and that means leaving nothing in the tank.

They let their best chance for a win slip back in round five, losing to the Rebels in extra time.

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“We want to get our win for the season and end on a real high and that’s really important for us so that will be a huge motivation for us,” Stander said on Wednesday.

“We don’t see it any differently to any other game – it’s obviously our last game and my 50th but we just want to go out and enjoy playing footy for one last time in 2020.

“Who we play doesn’t matter; we just want to focus on our performance.”

Rugby Australia has guaranteed the Force’s future, but the make-up of the 2021 competition is still to be confirmed.

Stander didn’t think they needed to add more talent, but just needed more time together.

“For us a big thing is just playing more rugby at this level,” he said.

“This is the eighth game at this level for most of the guys so the more we play the better we’re going to become.”

South African-born Stander has been mentioned as being part of the Wallabies’ train-on squad ahead of the Rugby Championship.

He said he would be honoured to play for his adopted country.

“I’d be hugely grateful for any opportunity that’s presented; a player loves to be rewarded for their hard work,” he said.

“I’d be really proud and honoured as Australia’s been my home for a really long time.

“Whatever happens after Saturday happens but I will try to put that aside to focus on the Rebels.”

PV: 16
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Can the Force make the Rebels choke again? | Rugby365