Tim Horan: Rebels and Western Force must start winning matches for the sake of Aussie rugby

Everyone who supports Aussie rugby owes the Rebels and the Force a massive thanks for the personal sacrifices they have made this season, but it’s time for both teams to stand up and be counted.

For the Force that means building their roster so they can be more competitive next year, and for the Rebels it means making the Super Rugby AU finals right now.

The Rebels have shown so much promise over the last few years, especially when they had Will Genia and Quade Cooper and they went on that long winning streak, but they keep missing the finals.

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The Rebels must push on now and become a legitimate threat for the title.Source:AFP


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It’s critical that they make it this year (even though it’s only a domestic competition) because it will send a really strong statement to a state that is growing the game of rugby.

There has been some talk about merging the Rebels with the Brumbies but I think we’ve really got to let the Rebels stand on their own two feet and grow the game in Melbourne so the kids in Victoria know there’s another sport apart from AFL.

There’s already great corporate support for rugby in Victoria and the game is getting stronger at schools and clubs, but there’s no better way to get even more boys and girls playing the game than by the Rebels making the finals.

Their problem this season is that they have struggled with consistency. When they get it all together though they are as good as any other team in the competition.

Two of their wins in the first competition rank in the best five performances of the season by any side.

To beat the Waratahs so comprehensively at the Sydney Cricket Ground in round four was the first real sign of what they are capable of.

Western Force have been over in the eastern states for over eight weeks now.Source:Getty Images

But the performance that really impressed me came two weeks later at Leichhardt Oval when they outplayed the Brumbies, who had just driven up the road from Canberra.

That’s the sort of performance they will need to beat the Waratahs again this weekend and get the rewards for all the sacrifices they have made.

Like the Force, the Rebels have been on the road for over eight weeks now, away from friends and families and their homes, but without that this competition could never have been played from start to finish.

There will be plenty of sympathy and support for them from players on all the other teams who have still been able to pay their mortgages and their kids’ school fees because of the competition restart.

Being on tour for so long is hard but it can also benefit teams because it brings everyone closer together so players and coaches can bond.

We saw that with the Western Force at the start of the season when they showed a lot of promise, but they will need six or seven really experienced players to be competitive next year, whether it’s in a domestic or a trans-Tasman competition.

Can anyone catch the Brumbies?Source:AAP

They need a spine of experienced and talented players and maybe that’s where a centralised system can help.

If you’ve got other teams that have got three good halfbacks or too many props, Rugby Australia should have the authority to send them to the Force. But there’s got to be incentives and opportunities in Perth.

If we are serious about making a team in WA work the second time around, one thing that would help is if the Western Force have at least a 25 per cent larger salary cap than the other teams in Australia.

Tahs call up former Eel for crunch match

Former Parramatta Eel Tepai Moeroa will make his run-on debut for the Waratahs in Saturday’s must-win Super Rugby AU showdown against the Melbourne Rebels after Karmichael Hunt was ruled out.

Hunt remains sidelined because of a hamstring strain he suffered before last weekend’s loss to the Brumbies, so coach Rob Penney has turned to Moeroa for the team’s biggest match of the season.

If the Waratahs lose again, their season will be over so Penney is banking on Moeroa being the wildcard selection to tip the scales NSW’s way at Leichhardt Oval.

Tepai Moeroa gets his chance to shine for the Tahs.Source:News Corp Australia

A former Australian schoolboy in rugby, Moeroa was regarded as one that got away when he signed for Parramatta and made his NRL debut at 18.

He made 112 appearances in six seasons with the Eels before returning to rugby this year.

Now aged 24, he has been unable to break into the starting side before now, though he did make one appearance off the bench against the Auckland Blues in February.

Fresh from the bye, the Rebels are unlikely to make wholesale changes despite failing to score in their last outing, against the Reds.

Test hooker Folau Fainga’a is expected to be recalled to the Brumbies line-up for Friday’s encounter with the Western Force at GIO Stadium.

Fainga’a was given last week off as the Brumbies made 16 changes for the Waratahs and still won in a canter.

Jono Lance is back for the Force.Source:Getty Images

Needing to win just one of their remaining two games to secure a grand final at home, Brumbies’ coach Dan McKellar is considering sticking with a similar line-up to last week then starting fresh for the final round away to the Reds.

Fly half Jono Lance will return to the starting line-up as the Western Force look to make amends for last weekend’s flogging by the Reds.

Lance’s return will force a reshuffle to the backline with Jack McGregor reverting to fullback and Henry Taefu and Marcel Brache returning to the run on side.

Originally published asDon’t let two months of sacrifice be in vain

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