Melbourne coach Damien Hill wants the Rebels to use their final Super Rugby match of the season as the start of their 2013 campaign, after they narrowly failed to register their first win overseas.
Trailing 24-0, the Rebels scored the next 22 points and led inside the last 10 minutes, only to lose 37-32 to the Lions in Johannesburg early on Sunday (AEST).
The last-placed Lions notched the last 10 points of the game, to record just their third victory of the season.
Melbourne have lost all seven of their offshore games in New Zealand and South Africa in their first two seasons.
They did pick up their first points on foreign soil, securing bonus points for scoring four tries and for losing by less than eight.
They have another chance to break their overseas drought next weekend, albeit against the powerful Stormers, who have already clinched the South African conference title.
“There are a number of positives to take out of tonight, but next week is important,” Hill told AAP.
“We are seeing next week as the start of next season, so we need to finish on a high.”
The Rebels were chasing from the start in Johannesburg, where they conceded a try to centre Waylon Murray inside the first two minutes.
It was 17-0 after as many minutes and 24-0 less than five minutes before halftime, after flanker Derick Minnie crossed for his second try.
The Rebels revival started when hooker Ged Robinson powered over from a forward drive after the halftime siren, with Melbourne down 24-7 at the break.
It was the first of three tries in 10 minutes either side of halftime, with lock Hugh Pyle crossing twice for the resurgent Rebels.
Melbourne turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead, when fullback Julian Huxley converted a chargedown try to five-eighth James Hilgendorf and then added a penalty.
Lions reserve Jaco Kriel squeezed over in the left hand corner and five-eighth Elton Jantjies converted and added a penalty to complete an immaculate seven from seven kicking performance.
“Our start was poor – we had some opportunities in that first half, with good field position, to convert pressure into points,” Hill said.
“But we didn’t execute them and, on top of that, we compound our errors and put the Lions in good field position and they were good enough to convert that pressure into points.
“The players really dug in that second half and (showed) a little bit more discipline and converted a few more of our opportunities into points and it was a better performance.
“But still we had opportunities in that second half to really close that game out and we were unable to do it.”
Hill said hooker Adam Freier would miss the Stormers game with a calf injury.