Highlanders clash biggest game for Rebels

Reece Hodge gets a pass away at a recent Rebels training session in Melbourne. Photo: Getty
Reece Hodge gets a pass away at a recent Rebels training session in Melbourne. Photo: Getty
The Melbourne Rebels have been guilty of glancing at the history books and not at the nuts and bolts of winning Super Rugby matches.

That's the assessment of five-eighth Reece Hodge as the Rebels prepare to face the Highlanders in the biggest game of their eight-year existence.

Victory in Dunedin on Saturday will guarantee a first finals appearance for Australian franchise.

A loss would leave them in eighth place but they'd be left hoping the Brumbies or Sharks don't go past them.

Losses to the Waratahs and Reds since the June international break have stung the Rebels and left them with plenty of lessons, Hodge believes.

The main one is to not get too caught up in what's at stake and concentrate on the mechanics of what it takes to win.

"You're being naive if you completely forget about it (the playoffs)," Hodge said.

"But at the same time, if you try to think too far ahead, you're not focusing on what you've got to do to get there.

"For us it's an exciting week... but we can't stray away from the fact that we haven't won the last two games when we really wanted to, having put ourselves in such a great position to make the finals."

Hodge is set to start at five-eighth against the Highlanders, as he has over the final third of the campaign.

That will please Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who has indicated the versatile 23-year-old is the test back-up to Wallabies No 10 Bernard Foley.

Hodge's focus has been purely on serving Melbourne's needs.

He will adjust his methods this week after the game plan came unstuck in last week's 37-23 loss to the Reds in Brisbane.

"Go back to what works well for us and that's not playing with numbers on our backs," he said.

"We've got size and physicality in our team which really gets us going forward.

"Against the Reds we were guilty of trying to push the ball wide before we went through them."

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