The winless NSW Waratahs are under express instructions to match Melbourne’s passion when the Rebels make an emotion-charged return to Super Rugby AU return on home soil on Fridaty night.
The Rebels haven’t played a home game in Melbourne for more than a year, forced interstate for much of last year and becoming the competition’s quintessential road warriors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Waratahs coaching staff is acutely aware that the rugby nomads will be out to put on a show in front of family and friends when they play at AAMI Park for the first time since March 7 last year.
The Rebels beating South Africa’s Lions 37-17 that night before Super Rugby proper was shut down for the season.
NSW assistant coach Matt Cockbain said the Waratahs shouldn’t need any reminding that the Rebels will be up for this contest.
“Ultimately it’s up to the boys to make sure they’re ready to go,” Cockbain said on Monday.
“It’s their obligation to bring that passion and pride that’s in that jersey. They’re representing their state and we need to see that this weekend.”
Fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase said he personally had received the message loud and clear.
“They will be emotional, so they’re going to bring that extra intensity but we’ll just have to match them with that intensity,” Nawaqanitawase said.
“We’ve had a lot of errors in our past games and hopefully bringing that intensity we can also bring up the skill level and drop the error rate.”
Anchored to the bottom of the table and riding a three-match losing streak, the Waratahs are desperate to break their duck.
“It would be everything,” Cockbain said.
“We’ve had a tough time and we look at that and try and improve and move on and try to get the win the next week.
“We’re going out there every week doing our best, trying our hardest to improve and get that victory.
“For morale, it would be a great shot in the arm if we could get it.”
To get it, the Tahs know they must contain Rebels flyer and 2019 John Eales Medallist Marika Koroibete.
“He’s a crazy athlete to watch and go up against so we’ve just got to make sure we identify him at all times,” Nawaqanitawase said.
“He likes to move around so we’ll be watching him with a close eye.”