Melbourne - Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen has demanded more aggression from his forwards as the stuttering Vodacom Super Rugby newcomers prepare for a bruising test against competition-leaders, the Sharks.
Having clinched a last-gasp one-point victory over the Brumbies in Melbourne in round two, the Rebels were brought back to earth by the Chiefs on Saturday as their set-pieces crumbled on the way to a resounding 28-point defeat.
"(The Sharks) would probably be number one as far as aggression is concerned so we're going to see a very physical game, we've got to try and match them, that's got to be our role out there," Macqueen, who coached Australia to World Cup glory in 1999, told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"I think we've got a big enough pack, they've been doing a lot of strength work over the time. I really don't think we've been outmuscled as such, it's got more to do with our understanding of the set pieces.
"Probably the scrum's been more technique than weight... We've had some very good scrums but we've also let ourselves down at crucial times."
The Rebels have two thumping losses from their first three matches in the southern hemisphere provincial competition, and despite being competitive for periods in each game, have managed to score only two tries.
While the team had struggling with their finishing, Macqueen said his backs were not getting enough time to mount raids on the try-line.
"Right now, working on our combinations is going to be very important," he said.
"And I think it's going to be up to the forwards to play well and give the backs a bit of room, and give players like (scrumhalves Nick) Phipps and (Richard) Kingi opportunities."
After a 43-0 drubbing to the Waratahs in front of 25 000 spectators at Melbourne's AAMI Park, about 10 000 less turned up to watch the Rebels' narrow win over the Canberra-based Brumbies.
The Rebels are competing in a sports market crowded with nine local teams from indigenous football code Australian Rules, plus two top-flight soccer teams and a rugby league side.
Macqueen said local fans had been "amazing" in their support and should enjoy a tough game against the Durban-based Sharks, who dismantled Western Force on Saturday for their third straight win.
"They're probably one of the more feared teams in Super rugby, I've personally got a lot of time for them," Macqueen said.
"And certainly they're a great benchmark for as a team that's going to pressure us as far as the basics are concerned."