Coach Tony McGahan admits the loss of brilliant winger Sefa Naivalu with a broken leg is a big blow as the Melbourne Rebels look to end their best Super Rugby season on a high.
Speedster Naivalu remained behind in Durban and underwent surgery after suffering the injury just before halftime in the Rebels 25-21 loss to the Sharks at the weekend.
He’s set to fly home on Friday to begin rehabilitation, missing the remaining two games against the Bulls on Saturday at AAMI Park followed by the Western Force.
Naivalu, 23, has been a revelation for the Rebels this season, having only arrived in Melbourne from Fiji last year to play club rugby.
With four tries to his name and able to play centre as well as wing, McGahan has tipped the athletic Naivalu as a future Wallaby when he’s eligible.
“Everyone was bitterly disappointed for him to break his leg in such a fashion so we’re looking forward to getting him back in and amongst us,” McGahan said.
“He’s had a really big year in regard to his transition to professional rugby from his limited experience.”
Melbourne will also be without Laurie Weeks after the prop was suspended for three weeks by the SANZAR judiciary for repeatedly punching Sharks forward Jannie du Plessis.
As well as the Rebels’ matches Weeks will sit out a club game in Melbourne.
With du Plessis starting the scuffle by striking Weeks across the back of the head as they jogged toward play, McGahan felt for his player.
“It’s a difficult situation when you are blindly running down the field after a scrum and someone clocks you from behind,” McGahan said.
“Laurie thought he was under attack and he retaliated. He certainly needed to stand up for himself, there is no doubt about that but he also needs to understand there is a point of stopping as well.”
While their push for the play-offs is over McGahan said the Rebels were desperate to finish their best-ever season on a strong note.
If they win both remaining games they can balance their ledger at eight wins and eight losses.
“We’ve done a lot of positive work with regard to our how we’ve played and what we’ve demonstrated from a spirit perspective and it’s important that we don’t dilute that and that we add to it,” he said.