Reece Hodge says Melbourne backs need to match the form of their winger Marika Koroibete, whom he says sits among the world’s best rugby players.
The Rebels are looking for a happy Super Rugby AU homecoming against the Waratahs at AAMI Park on Friday night, playing their first home game in more than a year.
Koroibete has been a stand-out in the Rebels’ three matches this season, continuing his stellar 2020 form.
While a try has proved elusive, the Test winger is the runaway leader in defenders beaten in the competition.
“Marika’s been unbelievable,” Hodge told AAP.
“He’d have to be in the top few players in the world the way he’s been playing and it’s pretty awesome as an inside back at the moment to be able to shift him the ball and know that he’s going to turn people inside out or make a line-break down the edge.
“He’s been a massive part of us being so close in the three games so far and hopefully we can get him a bit of ball in that left corner at AAMI Park.”
Koroibete is believed to be heading overseas at the end of the Super Rugby season, courted by multi-million dollar offers from Japan and European clubs.
Fellow Wallabies back Hodge said he hoped to keep him in Melbourne but backed his choice to move abroad.
“Obviously we’d love to have him stay beyond this year, both at the Rebels and for Australian rugby but he’s got a young family so he’s got to do what’s best for him and his family,” he said.
“He’s one of my good mates in this team and whatever is best for him and his family I’m happy with.”
Banking their first win last round against the Western Force after two tight losses to the Brumbies and Reds, Hodge said the rest of the backs needs to lift to match Koroibete’s efforts.
“Our forward pack had some massive moments in that last 20 minutes against the Storm and a man down, they really stood up and won us that game,” he said.
“I think it’s time for us to build on that as a squad … our backs need to execute better and really start scoring some points.”
Koroibete’s sizzling form hasn’t got unnoticed by the Waratahs, who are coming off the bye and looking to kickstart their winless season.
NSW assistant coach Chris Whitaker described the 28-year-old former rugby league star as “special”.
“Marika’s almost quite unconventional in that he roams around, he pick and goes, he just gets himself in the game,” Whitaker said on Thursday.
“He’s dynamic and just pops up everywhere so that’s going to be a big focus for us, just trying to control him for sure.”