Melbourne Rebels relish a shot at unbeaten Chiefs
The Melbourne Rebels sense something special building and now they get the chance to gauge their Super Rugby Pacific title credentials against the table-topping Chiefs.
Facing the unbeaten leaders at Waikato's FMG Stadium is one of the competition's most daunting assignments.
But the Rebels are up for the challenge after following up a round-two near miss against the high-flying Hurricanes with a first win of the season last week against the NSW Waratahs.
"We're under no illusion how hard this game is going to be this week," Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi said after Friday's captain's run.
"The Chiefs are very quality outfit at the moment and the result reflects that but, in saying that, we're here to win and we've prepped well this week to give ourselves the chance to do so."
The signing of superstar Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou and the confidence instilled by first-year coach Kevin Foote have the Rebels brimming with belief.
"The culture is really good down here," said Rangi, who is making his first appearance for the Rebels since the COVID-ravaged 2020 season.
"'Footy' is a great coach. There's no shying away from the fact he's one of the big reasons I came back.
"In terms of his growth, the head coaching job is never easy for a coach but he sticks to who he is as a person and sticks to his values and culture around that which is really good.
"Going off the names that are signed here and they see the same thing as well.
"To the guys behind the scenes, they do a really good job here to ensure the culture is really good and it attracts people."
The 34-year-old Rangi is a quintessential journeyman, returning for a second stint at the Rebels after playing for Perth Spirit, the Western Force, Melbourne Rising, the Shining Arcs in Japan and Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.
The Kiwi-born stalwart can't wait to get another crack at the Chiefs, three years later.
"I'm hugely excited," he said.
"The Chiefs are the coolest Super Rugby team from where I am from and the journey back has been awesome.
"When 'Footy' reached out about a year or so ago, I jumped it and made it work for my family. Really excited about it."