The Rebels will be missing Matt To’omua and Reece Hodge for their clash against the Sharks in Ballarat.
Hodge lasted less than 20 minutes in last weekend’s win over the Waratahs, forced off with a groin injury, and the utility is expected to miss at least a month of Super Rugby.
“Reece unfortunately is probably (going to miss) between four and six weeks,” Rebels coach Dave Wessels said.
“We probably had a sense of that after the (post-match) press conference when I had a chance to chat to him, i think he got a sense it wasn’t feeling great.”
To’omua’s injury is also a groin issue but Wessels said he was confident the playmaker would be back in the side for next week’s clash with the Highlanders.
Andrew Deegan will step into the 10 spot in To’omua’s absence, for his first Super Rugby start.
Wessels said he was confident that Deegan coudl fill To’omua’s shoes as a like-for-like replacement in Ballarat.
“He’s actually got the ability to play quite similar to Matt, he’s got a very good kicking game, he likes to take on the line in his running game,” he said.
“He is quite an experienced player, he’s played quite top level rugby for a long period of time.
“That’s probably one of the reasons why we recruited him is i think we’ve got two very similar 10s and we think we can build a game plan around guys who play a similar way and it doesn’t impact the team too much when you have to make changes as we have had to do this week.”
Hooker Steve Misa will also start, with Anaru Rangi coming off the bench after an injury-hampered start to the week.
Rangi was forced off the field against the Waratahs with a cut to his calf and with some uncertainty about his prognosis early in the week, Wessels said they decided to start Misa instead.
Injured rake Jordan Uelese is also back training with the team and could be in line for a return to action in the next fortnight.
The Sharks will bring with them a formidable attack, with some electric outside backs including Springboks flyer Makazole Mapimpi lighting up Super Rugby this year.
Wessels said the Rebels would have to limit their opportunities and work to ensure their own powerful backs fired on Saturday.
“We’re fortunate in that we have some firepower in those areas as well, you know guys like Marika (Koroibete), Dane (Haylett-Petty) and that sort of thing,” he said.
“We need to figure out how we isolate those guys and we force them to do some of the things maybe in the game that they don’t really want to do.
“If you allow them to get their tails up and do the things they do want to do, they enjoy that. Our job is to try and make that difficult for them.”
IN: Andrew Deegan, Jermaine Ainsley, Tom English, Frank Lomani
OUT: Matt To’omua, Reece Hodge, Cabous Elouff, Theo Strang
THE MELBOURNE REBELS HAVE PLAYED THE SHARKS SEVEN TIMES IN SUPER RUGBY SINCE 2011, THE REBELS HAVE WON ONE MATCH, LOST FIVE AND DRAWN ONE.
The Rebels one win from seven gives them a record of winning 14% of their matches against the Sharks regardless of venue.
This weekend the match will be played in Ballarat, which is home for the Rebels this weekend but not their regular home of Melbourne.
The Rebels had home advantage over the Sharks three times since 2011, and they have won one and lost two. It gives the Rebels a record of winning 33% of their matches against the Sharks at home.
Average score when Melbourne play the Sharks at home: Rebels 31 Sharks 23.
The hosts won the last match between these sides on Australian soil in 2018.
Average score: Rebels 21 Sharks 28
Last five results
Sat, 23 Mar 2019 Rebels 14-28 Sharks @Durban
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 Rebels 46-14 Sharks @Melbourne
Sat, 22 Apr 2017 Rebels 9-9 Sharks @Durban
Fri, 29 May 2015 Rebels 21-25 Sharks @Durban
Fri, 02 May 2014 Rebels 16-22 Sharks @Melbourne
Rebels overall record against the Sharks
Played 7, Wins 1, Losses 5, Draws 1
15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Andrew Deegan, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Steven Misa, 1 Matt Gibbon
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Tom English.
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Andre Esterhuizen (captain), 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo
Match Officials and details
Date: Saturday 22 February
Venue: Mars Stadium, VIC
Kick-Off local: 14:45
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy Assistant Ref 2: James Quinn
TMO: George Ayoub