Rugby-'Elephant in the room': Rebels face Chiefs under looming extinction threat

  • Rugby
  • Thursday, 16 May 2024

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Melbourne Rebels may be set to play their final home game in Super Rugby Pacific against the Waikato Chiefs on Friday if efforts to save the debt-ridden club come to nothing.

The Rebels entered voluntary administration in January with more than A$20 million ($13 million) owed to creditors ranging from the Australian Taxation Office to the manager of their home Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

Creditors voted last month to approve a proposal brought by former Rebels directors to keep the club afloat, but governing body Rugby Australia has declined to guarantee the side will return in 2025.

More talks are expected as the regular season winds down in coming weeks, but the Rebels players will try to focus on beating the Chiefs and sealing a first appearance in the playoffs of a full Super Rugby competition.

"It probably is the elephant in the room - the uncertainty, we're dealing with things that no other Super Rugby club is at the moment," said Rebels winger Lachlan Anderson.

"We've dealt with it for 13 weeks now and it's no different this week.

"You're not short of motivation. We realise the opportunity to play at home is massive for us, and we understand what a win would do for us and the programme."

The Rebels joined Super Rugby in 2011 to give professional rugby union a presence in a city dominated by Australian Rules football but they have played only one finals match in their history.

That was in the 2020 Super Rugby AU competition, a domestic affair pulled together during COVID-19.

Four years on, they have a chance to reward their success-starved fan-base.

With three rounds left in the regular season, victory over the fourth-placed Chiefs will likely be enough for the sixth-placed Rebels to claim a place in the top eight and a quarter-finals berth.

It could also put a severe dent in the New Zealand side's chances of securing a top four spot and home advantage in the playoffs.

The Chiefs have a tough run home against top two sides, Wellington Hurricanes and Auckland Blues, and will be desperate to keep the fifth-based Queensland Reds from making up ground.

The Reds, back in form after strong wins over the Canterbury Crusaders and Rebels, head to the heat and noise of Suva to face Fijian Drua on Saturday.

The Drua are clinging to eighth position after successive away defeats to the ACT Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs but are a different side on home soil.

Should the Fijians suffer a rare home defeat, Western Force stand poised to snatch their top eight spot with a home win over the bottom-placed New South Wales Waratahs in Perth late on Saturday.

($1 = 1.4957 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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