The meaning of the game is “huge”, but it’s the Queensland Reds under all the pressure.
Melbourne Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese has turned spotlight squarely on the home side for Saturday’s Super Rugby AU semi-final clash, the first final in Rebels history.
Uelese, a born and bred Victorian who knows just what a win would mean to rugby in Melbourne, said the underdogs – the Rebels are $3.25 outsiders with the TAB – had “nothing to lose”.
The Rebels scraped in to the finals, with an 80th minute, almost accidental try against the winless Western Force last week, nearly succumbing to the pressure of falling at the final hurdle again.
Captain Dane Haylett-Petty said earlier this week that victory, just making the finals, had set the players “free” and Uelese echoed those thoughts.
“Yes, the meaning of the game is huge, but the pressure isn’t on us, it’s on them – they got a home final and they’re the in-form team, so we’ve got nothing to lose,” Uelese said.
“We’re not going casual about it, but we’re prepping as though it’s just another game. It has a lot more meaning and we’re looking to make Melbourne proud.”
The Rebels received a boost to their preparation, after being allowed to move to Sydney on Friday from their base at Terrigal on the NSW coast, before a Saturday flight to Brisbane, saving them an extra bus trip on game day.
The Rebels didn’t score a try the last time they played the Reds at Suncorp, losing 19-3. But they had more than enough attempts, and Uelese said converting them was the key to turning the tables.
“Last time we went up there, it was our attacking footy – not converting our tries in the twenty-two and obviously we got held up on the line five times as well,” he said.
“We get a bit of confidence in that if we convert one or two of those tries, we’re in the game.
Uelese said Victorian pride was driving the team, even for the majority of players who have joined the club from interstate.
“I think it means a lot as a Victorian and even the guys who are from Sydney who have been in Melbourne for two and three years – they’re Victorian now – so it means a lot for the club.,” he said.
“To make history this year would be awesome.”