Super Rugby
Rebels impressing Scott Higginbotham
February 14, 2013
Australia's Scott Higginbotham charges forward, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, August 25, 2012
Scott Higginbotham adds 23 caps' worth of Wallabies experience to the Rebels pack. © Getty Images

Scott Higginbotham knows what it takes to make a quantum leap forward in Super Rugby, having endured the darkest of days before the brave new dawn at Queensland Reds.

And the star Rebels recruit agrees with coach Damien Hill that the team that finished last and 13th in its first two campaigns must aim significantly higher in 2013.

The Rebels kick off the Super Rugby season with a home game against Western Force at AAMI Park on Friday night.

Melbourne play the other four Australian franchises in the opening four rounds of the tournament, meaning a fast start is of paramount importance to their hopes.

Scott Higginbotham missed the Rebels' two trial games - which ended in competitive losses to the Waratahs and the Hurricanes - but he was always confident he would recover from shoulder surgery in time to take his backrow place for round one.

"[A winning culture] is something we need to build as a team," Higginbotham said. "It's not just me bringing that down, but it's something that is definitely capable of happening."

The Reds finished in the bottom three of the Super Rugby standings in Higginbotham's first two years in 2008 and 2009 - a position they also occupied in the preceding four seasons - before improving to fifth in 2010 and champions in 2011 under Ewen McKenzie.

Finding a way to win tight games was a vital part of that progression.

"It's just about belief and playing for your mates," the Wallabies flanker said.

"Back then, it was alright to go into a game and come close. I'm not sure, but that might have been the mindset for the Rebels boys for the last couple of years. We're at a stage now where it's not alright, and we're going to prove to the rest of the competition and ourselves that we're capable of winning those games."

With Melbourne skipper Gareth Delve ensconced at No.8, Higginbotham will slot into his preferred position of blindside breakaway for the Rebels.

Second-year coach Hill has named a strong line-up for the season opener, with incumbent Wallabies fly-half Kurtley Beale at five-eighth and James O'Connor at fullback.

"We've had two solid years and this is a year where expectations are higher, and so they should be," Hill said.

"Fifteenth in the first year, 13th in the second year - as we were establishing ourselves, I think that was part of the process. However, if you continue to stay around that end of the ladder, you're not progressing. We need to progress as a club, and expectation comes with that."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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