McGahan: Rebels still have a lot to work on

Rebels’ Head Coach Tony McGahan believes his side’s inability to cope defensively with momentum shifts ultimately was the difference in his team’s loss to the Lions.

The Rebels lost their sixth straight Super Rugby match when they were beaten 34-17 by the Lions in Johannesburg in a game where the scoreline flattered the hosts.

“We’re disappointed with the loss, but as far as our spirit and fight we were excellent,” McGahan said.

“We fought back after a poor start and showed a lot of belief in each other, and some of our work on attack was terrific. “

“Unfortunately there was a big momentum shift after 65 minutes and we couldn’t turn it around, finishing the game with thirteen men, but we fought until the very end and the guys showed a lot of fortitude and mateship.”

McGahan was quick to play down any suggestion that the Rebels struggled in the final quarter due to their inexperience playing at altitude.

“We don’t have any excuses about altitude or playing away from home; we have had a great preparation, we just weren’t able to grab that momentum at the end. We turned the ball over and they took it 90 metres, and from there we weren’t able to get it back where we needed it.”

Replacement scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker assumed the Captaincy in the final stages, with Higginbotham in the bin and Fuglistaller having been replaced, and speaking afterwards spoke about missed opportunities but pride in certain aspects.

“It was a very physical game and there are lots of sore bodies in the sheds now,” he said.

“The Lions are a very good side, and they reacted to a lot of our turnovers quickly and were able to shift momentum very well. We struggled to wrestle momentum back when we needed to do so.

“Our scrum stood up really well, and we managed to score a rolling maul try against a South African team away from home; that’s a great achievement. There were a lot of positives, but we still have a lot to work on to finish the year with a win.”

The Rebels now travel to Pretoria for their final game of the 2014 Super Rugby season against the Bulls.

McGahan and the Rebels will look at bringing over fresh players if required, for a game the Head Coach describes as “a wonderful opportunity for our young team.”

“We have a lot of battered bodies, so we need to be clever about how we prepare for next week. For a lot of the group it is there first time in South Africa, and it will be first time at Loftus Versfeld.”

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