By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Melbourne Rebels have cheered locked-down fans by making the Super Rugby AU playoffs and want to bring more sunshine to their home city with victory against the Queensland Reds on Saturday, hooker Jordan Uelese said on Friday.
The Rebels are set to play their first playoff of any kind at Brisbane's Lang Park, having failed to make the postseason in Super Rugby since joining the wider competition as an expansion side in 2011.
Melbourne is in hard lockdown as authorities battle to quell an outbreak of COVID-19, which forced the Rebels to leave their home state of Victoria and play their entire Super Rugby AU schedule away.
"It means a lot, especially with everything that’s going on in Melbourne," Uelese told reporters.
"To give (fans) something to be happy about during this tough time, that’s all we play for each week.
"We go out to play eighty minutes to put smiles on people’s faces in Victoria.
"I think it means a lot as a Victorian and even the guys who are from Sydney who have been in Melbourne for two and three years – they’re Victorian now – so it means a lot for the club.
"To make history this year would be awesome."
Dave Wessels' Rebels snuck into the playoffs with a 34-30 defeat of the winless Western Force. After a long season on the road, they face a tough task against Brad Thorn's Reds.
The Reds beat them 19-3 at Lang Park in August and also the table-topping ACT Brumbies 26-7 last week.
The Rebels were frustrated by the Reds defence last time and need to convert pressure into points on Saturday, said Uelese.
"Last time we went up there, it was our attacking footy – not converting our tries in the 22 and obviously we got held up on the line five times as well," he said.
"It’s probably all about converting those opportunities in the opposition 22."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)