Boom centre Sione Tuipulotu headlines a new look Melbourne Rebels team which will face the Sharks in Durban this Sunday morning.
With a handful of regular Rebels rotated out of the match day 23 this week, Victorian born Tuipulotu will start and look to secure his tenth Rebels cap since signing with the Club from rugby nursery St Kevin’s College.
Joining Tuipulotu in the match day 23 this week is fellow Victorian Pone Fa’amausili, off-season recruit Campbell Magnay and scrum half 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.
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.”
The Melburnians will look to bounce back from a tight loss to the Lions in Johannesburg last week as they face the Sharks who are coming off the bye.
Wessels acknowledged the focus this week has been to control momentum swings in the game which hurt the side dearly against the Lions.
“We had a really good half against the Lions, but then momentum got away from us and we didn’t control that well in the second half against them,” Wessels said.
“Our biggest challenge is to run our best race, because we want to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and we were for fifty minutes in Johannesburg, but we need to do that more consistently in Durban.”
Rebels Match Day 23 v Sharks, Sunday 23 March, kick off 2:05am (EDT)
1. Matt Gibbon
2. Anaru Rangi
3. Sam Talakai
4. Ross Haylett-Petty
5. Matt Philip
6. Luke Jones
7. Richard Hardwick
8. Angus Cottrell
9. Michael Ruru
10. Quade Cooper
11. Tom English
12. Billy Meakes
13. Sione Tuipulotu
14. Reece Hodge
15. Jack Maddocks
16. Robbie Abel
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Pone Fa’amausili
19. Rob Leota
20. Brad Wilkin
21. Harrison Goddard
22. Campbell Magnay