The Melbourne Rebels are looking for their in-form prop Toby Smith to lift against his former side, the Chiefs, as their Super Rugby season goes on the line.
Trailing the Waratahs and Brumbies in the Australian conference standings, the Rebels must beat the two-time champions in Hamilton on Saturday to keep alive their slim chance of playing finals.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan said he hoped New Zealand-born Smith could find an edge against the Chiefs, where he spent four seasons before joining the Rebels in 2014.
“It’s always good when you’re playing a side that you spent a lot of time with and were successful there,” McGahan said.
“Toby’s a pretty quiet guy so his actions will do the talking on the weekend.”
Smith has been a pack leader, taking his form to another level since playing three matches in the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign last year.
“We thought he had a really great year last year forcing his way into the World Cup squad and he’s come back really hungry and keen to do well and keen to improve,” McGahan said.
“Last week (against the Brumbies) Toby was excellent; the tackling, the carries, his work passing the ball from the base of the ruck, his back-to-back efforts, his work off the ground – all of those things a lot of people might miss in a front-rower, he’s delivering each week for us.”
Seven points behind the front-running Waratahs, who play the Crusaders, the Rebels know they can’t afford another slip-up after losing three of their last four matches.
The Brumbies are one point off the Waratahs but have the bye.
McGahan said they couldn’t waste time on the ladder machinations and were simply focused on beating the Chiefs, who are on the same points as the leading Crusaders but second in the Kiwi conference on points differential.
“We’ve done a bit of homework on them and we think we’ve matched up with them pretty well over the last two years but in saying that they’re coming off a bye and got some players back from injury,” McGahan said.
“They know a good result against us will put them in a good position, which is important as the games dwindle.
“We need to continue to compete because you don’t know what’s going to happen down the track and if something does, you’re in with a shot.”