Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan doesn’t believe in dead rubbers, especially after a Super Rugby season in which his side has made great gains.
The Rebels finish their 2015 campaign with an AAMI Park match against Western Force on Friday night, when they will be shooting for a fifth straight home victory.
The carrot of finals was removed when they went winless on last month’s two-game tour of South Africa.
But as McGahan tries to mould the squad to a point where they can challenge for a title, he knows winning must become a habit.
“We’ve got a hell of a lot to play for, we’ve built up some sort of credibility this year with the way we’ve performed,” McGahan said on Wednesday.
“We want to make sure we protect that.
“People are here to be accountable, so there’s no slackening off at any period.
“The last game of the season … it can really leave a bad taste in people’s mouths if you lose.”
McGahan suggested it would be foolish to downplay the significance of the final game of the season – no matter where your side sits on the table.
“We’ve gained a lot of confidence and had a lot of improvement in what we’re doing and to really consolidate that at the back end of the season is important,” he said.
“We spoke about that when we came back from South Africa.”
Regardless of the result on Friday, the Rebels’ fifth season will be their most successful in terms of wins.
They have defeated every Australian side, with the exception of the NSW Waratahs, and last week ended the Bulls’ playoff hopes with a thrilling 21-20 win.
It means Melbourne will start as short-priced favourites against the Perth-based franchise, something they haven’t always dealt with that well.
“That’s something we’ve been guilty of, probably not doing so well (when expected to),” McGahan said.
“This is a great opportunity for us.
“If we want to be serious, those expectations will increase as we go further year after year.
“If you want to be playing in finals, it’s really important you finish off right.”