New-look Rebels to face Sharks
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Centre Sione Tuipulotu headlines a new-look Melbourne Rebels team which will face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
With a handful of regular Rebels rotated out of the matchday 23 this week, Victorian-born Tuipulotu will start in the No.13 jersey.
Joining Tuipulotu in the matchday 23 this week is fellow Victorian Pone Fa’amausili, off-season recruit Campbell Magnay and scrumhalf Harrison Goddard. Among the Rebels rested under the Wallabies rotation policy are Adam Coleman, Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Will Genia, while skipper Dane Haylett-Petty has been ruled out with a foot injury.
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Wessels is adamant though that the negative of Haylett-Petty’s injury is outweighed by the positivity of Melbourne’s backline depth.
“Jack Maddocks has played a fair bit of 15 for us, so he’ll be comfortable there,” Wessels said.
“It’s a great opportunity for Sione Tuipulotu to come into the team, he did really well in the NRC and thoroughly deserves his chance, being one of the best trainers of the preseason prior to injuring his hamstring.
“It’s also exciting to see Campbell Magnay’s first selection for the Rebels, because he’s 106kgs and he’s six-four (feet tall) … but he’s a big part of our club… so we’re excited to give him his first run on the weekend.”
Dane Haylett-Petty’s injury has resulted in Melbourne Rising Captain Angus Cottrell being elevated as on-field leader of the side. Wessels believes a number of senior players could have been given the role. However, the previous leadership positions Cottrell possessed made him an ideal candidate.
“There’s any number of guys in that group that could be captain,” Wessels said.
“One of the things we worked hard on the last couple of months is our leadership and development.
“We chose Gus because he’d done the job for us in the past during the NRC, so he’s probably a little bit more experienced.”
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Tom English, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 TBC.
Date: Saturday, March 23
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17.15 (15.15 GMT; 02.15 Melbourne time Sunday, March 24)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)