Rebels Super rugby head coach Dave Wessels has named Wallabies back Matt To’omua in his team to play the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Matt To’omua returns to the team after missing last weeks match with a groin complaint.
Also returning to the starting XV are stalwarts Anaru Rangi and Angus Cottrell, as well as giant lock Gideon Koegelenberg who will be making his Super Rugby run-on debut.
Headlining the strong bench is the returning Jordan Uelese, who makes his first appearance on the a rugby field since the World Cup in Japan.
Assistant Coach Kevin Foote was pleased to see to return of so many experienced players into the lineup.
“Matty had an awesome game against the Waratahs and showed his leadership,” explained Foote.
“And really, really special for Jordan who’s coming back from injury after the World Cup; a big body, really good scrummager, (a) set piece forward so good depth to be adding to the squad.
“Anaru has always been a really good starter so he just took some time off. He flagged a few niggles last week and we know we have to look after the player, make sure he’s OK.
“Now he comes back to the starting lineup and brings a lot of energy, especially in his defence.
“Gideon (Koegelenberg) gets a start which is well deserved. Obviously coming from South Africa, very physical, enjoys the maul, very good scrummager.
“And also just work ethic and really good around the boys. He’s really settled in nicely to Melbourne.”
Dunedin was the scene of heartbreak two years ago, when the Highlanders thrilling 43-37 victory cruelly denied the Rebels a place in the post season.
The Rebels would have their revenge though, prevailing over the Kiwi team 24-19 in Melbourne last year.
Foote understands better than most the attacking threat the men from the south island pose.
“They can play with a lot of width so if you get narrow on them they will expose you out wide so we got to be conscious of that and you also have to be conscious of the trick plays they come up with.
“If you switch off for a second they will probably expose you so we got to make sure we don’t get caught with our pants down.”
15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Tom English, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon
Replacments: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Cabous Eloff, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Michael Wells, 23 Andrew Deegan