Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has named Wallaby scrumhalf Luke Burgess in the starting line up to play the Sharks at AAMI Park on Friday.
McGahan believes Burgess' experience and physicality from kickoff will be an asset against the competition leaders in the first game of their four-match Australasian tour.
"We're looking for a change in dynamics this weekend as we play the Sharks who have such a big physical pack," McGahan said.
"Luke has a strong kicking game from nine, and we'll need the physicality around the ruck and in attack and defence that Luke can certainly bring.
"Nic Stirzaker has done a fantastic job for us, starting the last fivegames, and there is a big difference between starting games and finishing games; there's a different skillset required. Nic has given us a great platform, and Luke has been terrific adding enthusiasm, speed and consistency when he has come on in the latter stages; Nic gets the opportunity to do that this week."
Burgess' introduction from the outset is one of only two changes to the Rebels side which defeated the Western Force 22-16 two weeks ago in the Good Friday Appeal match at AAMI Park, with prop Cruze Ah-Nau promoted to his first Super Rugby start as Toby Smith misses with a shoulder injury.
The Sharks head to Melbourne coming off just their second loss of the season last week, against the Highlanders in Durban, however McGahan is focused more on his squad and how they approach this match having had a bye over the ANZAC Day weekend.
"We are ready for the challenges posed by the Sharks," he said.
"It's great to be through the first half of the season; the guys have been really keen and enthusiastic at training over the last few days to start the second half of the season, and most importantly this block now of five games which kicks off with playing the number one side in Super Rugby at this point in time. The guys are really looking forward to the challenge, and being back at home."
Cadeyrn Neville and Shota Horie played arguably their best games of the season against the Western Force, and their strong performances keep Hugh Pyle and Pat Leafa respectively on the substitutes bench this week.
"Cadeyrn had a lot of work to get through, and a lot to work on after his first start of the season in Round Two against the Western Force before he returned to the starting lineup in Round Ten," McGahan explained.
"He did that well, worked hard on his game and the evidence was there last time around where he did a really good job for us, particularly in the contact areas.
"Cadeyrn knows as well as everybody else that he needs to string back to back performances together, and he will get no better test than coming up against basically a Springbok forward pack.
"Shota Horie had his best game for the Club last time out; I thought he was terrific, and he won one of our internal awards for his performance. What he brought to the group in terms of his enthusiasm, his carries and his footwork were great, and he was a big part of our scrum doing well."
"The pleasing thing for him is that the more time he has been able to gather in Super Rugby, the better he has been able to become. It takes time to adapt to the environment, and he is certainly a great example of somebody benefitting from time and patience."
1. Cruze Ah-Nau*,2. Shota Horie,3. Laurie Weeks,4. Cadeyrn Neville,5. Luke Jones,6. Colby Fainga'a,7. Scott Fuglistaller,8. Scott Higginbotham (C),9. Luke Burgess,10. Bryce Hegarty,11. Tom English,12. Mitch Inman ,13. Tamati Ellison,14. Male Sau,15. Jason Woodward
Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa,17. Max Lahiff,18. Paul Alo-Emilie,19. Hugh Pyle,20. Sean McMahon,21. Nic Stirzaker,22. Tom Kingston,23. Angus Roberts
* Denotes first Super Rugby start