No more excuses, says Rebels coach
RUGBY UNION: Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan says his team has run out of excuses after two poor performances to start the Super Rugby season.
McGahan will be hoping last week's bye has refreshed his team after big defeats to the Blues and the Hurricanes.
The Rebels take on the Chiefs in Melbourne Friday night and the coach is looking forward not back as the team aims for a first win of the season.
"Our performances haven't been good enough in the first two weeks and whatever excuses we could hang on to would be nice but we know that ultimately we're judged on what we do on the field and that starts again on Friday night," McGahan said.
"We understand that we had a really tough start to the season, certainly the scorelines don't reflect the work that we've put in, so we need to make sure that we address that."
Sefa Naivalu will make his first appearance of the season after he was sidelined for the opening two rounds with a leg infection.
He will team up with childhood friend Marika Koroibete on the wings for the first time together, while Fereti Sa'aga will make his Super Rugby run-on debut after a good showing off the bench against the Hurricanes.
"We need to get our best players on the field and marching on," McGahan said.
"We had a pretty good run during pre-season but then we ended up with seven or eight guys out (with injury) for round one and so we're playing a little bit of catch up to get them back on the field and fitness under their belt."
With 13 games still to play, McGahan said there was still time to turn the Rebels' season around, starting with a good showing against the Chiefs.
"We need a performance this weekend that we can hang our hat on and something to build off because we understand the competition and where the Australian sides are," he said.
"It's a long season and we understand that our performances have been anything but poor so we need to make sure that we're getting better in our performance this week."
Damian McKenzie, 21, will get his first start at fly-half for the Chiefs, who will look to remain unbeaten after wins over the Highlanders, the Blues and the Hurricanes.
Their last visit to Melbourne in 2015 ended in a 16-15 defeat but last year's meeting in Hamilton was a 36-15 victory.
McKenzie said it would be tough against a team looking to bounce back from two poor performances.
"It's not going to be an easy game but they've had points put on them," he said.
"We're making sure we treat it as any other week.
"The New Zealand derbies excite that little more but it's about having that same mindset."