STAND and deliver.
That’s the message from captain courageous Scott Higginbotham when the Melbourne Rebels take on the NSW Waratahs at Albury Sportsground today.
The Wallaby and Super Rugby winner knows what it takes to compete at the highest level and is demanding his troops start with a win.
Higginbotham, born in Queensland, grew up hating the Waratahs.
Little has changed from south of the Border.
He said the Rebels had trained through 45-degree heat in Melbourne and were ready to fight for spots in the starting 15.
“We are playing to win, that’s what we are out to do — build a winning culture at the Rebels,” he said.
“We need to go further than last year where we won five games — at the moment our plan is to win every game and that starts tomorrow.
“It has been a long, hard pre-season and my first one that has been injury free so I know how hard all the boys have trained, everyone is keen to get on the park.”
Higginbotham said an infusion of youth was the platform from which the club could become a Super Rugby powerhouse.
He pointed to ex-Waratahs Tom Kingston and Lopeti Timani, younger brother of Wallaby Sitaleki, as examples of the club’s future.
“Everyone recognises it’s our fourth year and we need to start making inroads in the competition,” Higginbotham said.
“There were some fantastic players at the club but they were at the end of their careers.
“But we have brought in a whole lot of talented young guys and will look to blood them, build a platform for a winning team, not just this year but into the future.”
Timani joined the Rebels after two seasons with the Waratahs, while Kingston racked up 29 Super Rugby caps in three years.
Both will start the game and expect to be the target of some attention from their former teammates — physical and verbal.
“No doubt some of our former teammates will have something to say when we get on the field tomorrow,” Kingston said.
“But the fact is we want to be part of the starting team against the Cheetahs in two weeks’ time, and that means making our mark tomorrow.
“The Waratahs gave me a start in Super Rugby but now I’m here at the Rebels and need to prove myself all over again.”
Timani said he couldn’t wait to get on the field.
“I’m a bit nervous but looking forward to it and just want to play, go hard,” the No. 8 said.
“I’m sure it will be physical early on and with people coming on every 20 minutes I’d expect it will continue to be hard, high quality rugby for the whole game.”
The match starts at Albury Sportsground at 5pm.