While they’ve shared some bitter history, Melbourne Rebels will do what they can to help Western Force through to the Super Rugby Pacific finals by beating the Highlanders in their last-round clash on Sunday.
The Rebels could hold the Force’s fate in their hands, with the Perth team contending with the Highlanders for the eighth and final spot in the play-offs.
Trailing the Highlanders by three points, the Force need to beat the Hurricanes in Perth on Saturday night and, if they manage to collect four points, they also need the Rebels to stop the Highlanders on Sunday at AAMI Park.
Melbourne and the Force formed a rivalry when the latter were axed from a reduced Super Rugby competition in 2017 while the struggling Rebels survived.
Rebels flanker Brad Wilkin, who announced he had re-signed with the club for a further two years, said his team wanted to finish their inconsistent season well.
And they were happy to help out their fellow Australians.
“We definitely want to finish on a high at home as it’s something we can take forward into next season,” the 26-year-old said.
“And if we can also help the Western Force get through to the finals, it’s only good for Australian rugby so we will be doing our best to get the win.”
Wilkin has been one of the Rebels best performers in a year that has only yielded three wins from 13 games to sit 10th.
He had two seasons with the Waratahs but his career stalled there behind Wallabies captain Michael Hooper while he also suffered back to back ACL injuries.
Debuting for the Rebels in 2019, he said there were options to move overseas but he was happy in Melbourne and playing big minutes consistently.
“The work that the Rebels have put into me that allowed me to stay on the park is undervalued so was a big factor in me staying in Melbourne,” Wilkin said.
A former under 20s national player, Wilkin is hoping his season doesn’t end this Sunday as he eyes possible selection in the Australia A team, who will play three matches in Fiji in July.
“I’m hopeful but not sure – we will have to wait and see,” he said.
“Any opportunity to play more footy and develop and grow and be around quality coaches is exciting.”